ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

Typing on a Touchscreen Smartphone

5/6/2011 5:22:19 PM

Several people commented on my typing “style” at MIX11. I type like this:

Picture 2

Yes, with my index fingers.

When I got my Windows Phone, which was my first capacitive touchscreen device, I tried different typing techniques and came to a conclusion that typing with index fingers in landscape mode was the most comfortable and accurate.

A few days ago this theme came up again and I decided to run a poll on how people type. I’ve limited the question to WP7 (for no apparent reason) but I think it applies to all platforms. Turns out I’m almost alone doing it this way:

image

You can still vote in this poll at the time of this writing.

The reaction on twitter was even more interesting:

image

And that’s just a part of confused feedback. So I’ve shown them the picture at the top of this post and some even changed their opinion (or at least pretended). I guess some even voted for index fingers in the poll as a pity vote, so I don’t feel like a complete freak.

Anyway this got me thinking why would people even think about typing with their thumbs? They are the fattest and probably the most inaccurate fingers. Second only to pinkies, I guess.

Force of habit

In my opinion there’s no ergonomical reason to type with thumbs in landscape on a standard size touchscreen smartphone with no hardware keyboard. And all the people typing with thumbs on such phones do it simply driven by the force of habit. And the habit was probably developed one of these ways:

  1. Typing on a Blackberry-like keyboard or on-screen keyboard in portrait with 2 hands. When typing this way you have to maintain phone’s balance since the keyboard is relatively far from it’s center of gravity and the grip when typing with thumbs is the most comfortable way to do this. It’s definitely not very comfy to hold the phone in portrait the way I do on the picture above.
  2. Typing on a horizontal slider like Nokia Communicators, HTC 7 Pro, LG Optimus 7Q, Sidekick, etc. Same as above. “My” grip is hardly applicable here for the same reasons.
  3. Gaming. Most gaming controllers make extensive use of thumbs, so gamers have them highly developed.

Since I never extensively did any of the above and Windows Phone (and apps on it) supports landscape typing in all scenarios where more than trivial typing is required, I naturally came up with the most comfortable approach for this.

There you have it. A scientific explanation ;)

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