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THOUGHT: How usable are QWERTY Keyboards for one-hand use?
Posted by Arne Hess - on Tuesday, 09.10.07 - 13:57:31 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 19349x
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No question, since RIM's introduction of the BlackBerry, QWERTY keyboards became quite popular, doesn't matter if these are slide-out keyboards like used with the HTC TyTN and TyTN II, or if these are thumb-keyboards like used with the Palm Treo 750 or Samsung BlackJack or if these are SureType-kind of keyboards like used with the HTC Touch Dual or the T-Mobile Juno. All these keyboards have one common - a kind of classical typewriter keyboard layout and it seems, the regular mobile phone keypad is slowly falling into oblivion.

No question, the classic mobile phone keypad was kind of inconvenient to use for entering texts but everything changed with the introduction of T9 (predictive text) in the late 90's of the last century. No more need of multi-tapping but with single taps, it was possible to enter texts on mobile phones, similar to the QWERTY layout keyboards which also requires single-tap only.

Now I'm using QWERTY keyboard Windows Mobile phones for roughly a year or so and everything started with the Samsung SGH-i320. When I tried the O2 Xda cosmo before, I didn't get used to it but when I got the i320 I thought I should finally try it myself to get a better understanding how well QWERTY keyboard for mobile phones works. Sure, I've used keyboards before with my HTC Universal and HTC Hermes but these were Pocket PCs which I'm using for text entry anyway. So for some reasons it was something different to use a keyboard on a Pocket PC smartphone than using it with a mobile phone.

However, since I've really started to use thumb-keyboard smartphones, I don't want to miss it anymore. And after the i320 I've upgraded to the Samsung SGH-i600, basically the same keyboard layout but now with UMTS/HSDPA. Until yesterday, I've used the Palm Treo 500v Windows Mobile Standard smartphone, again with a thumb-keyboard and at the moment I'm trialing the O2 Xda star with this new SureType kind of keyboard, which is a modified QWERTY layout on a 4 row 5 column keypad, with a predictive input algorithm. While typing on a SureType keyboard is different from typing on thumb-keyboard keyboards, it's way closer to thumb-keyboards than to regular mobile phone keypads.

Anyway, since the first day I've used the Samsung i320 I cannot manage to write longer texts with just one hand only, as I did before with standard mobile phone keypads but basically I need both hands. I have a real problem to find letters on the left side of the keyboard, if I'm using my right hand only. It's interesting to see how the brain has structures and how QWERT, ASDFG and ZXCVB are assigned to the left hand but not to the right hand.
As a matter of fact, I'm always using two hands if I write SMS or MMS messages or reply to E-Mails. Sure, a short text just with two or three words, I can type with my right hand only, but a full 160 character SMS is nearly impossible to write with one hand only, if I use a QWERTY-layout keyboard.

Funny enough, I'm not alone. I've just spoken with colleagues and friends and the faced the same problem. All of them are long time mobile phone users and heavy messenger but not one of them said that they are using QWERTY-kind of keyboards with one hand only but all of them confirmed that they are using two hands as well.

As a bottom-line I think that, as much as the QWERTY keyboard improved the overall messaging experience, as much it took away some convenience - for instance being able to enter texts while walking or while standing in a subway, where you better hold with one hand the handhold while typing with the other hand.

So how about you, if you are using a QWERTY-kind of keyboard as well, do you use it single-hand or do you need/use both hands as well?

Cheers ~ Arne


 

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