iPhone keyboard lacks accuracy, study finds

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Oakbrook Terrace (IL) – A new study concludes what many iPhone users may have found out already. The iPhone's on-screen keyboard isn't really as good as it may look at first sight.

Compared to the smartphones available today, the iPhone is a marvel of innovation, but the device of course has weaknesses. Aside the common complaints about things like the lack of 3G, the short battery life and the high price, the on-screen keyboard apparently is also not as easy to use as Steve Jobs indicated on stage during the first presentation of the device. Usability consultancy User Centric has found that it is inaccurate enough to be a likely source of frustration for new iPhone users.

User Centric said that it compared the speed of text entry on the iPhone of users who have been familiar with other QWERTY phone keypads as well as numeric keypads before the transition to Apple's iPhone was made. The test group included 20 participants, with ten of them owned phones with a full QWERTY keypad and 10 owned phones with a numeric keyboard. None of the participants owned an iPhone. All 20 participants sent at least 15 messages per week, User Centric said.

When transitioned to the iPhone - to find out how quickly users could adapt to the phone's on-screen keyboard - it took QWERTY users almost twice as long to create the same message on the iPhone as it did on their QWERTY phone, the consultancy said. While there was improvement over time, the difference persisted even after using the iPhone for 30 minutes.

In contrast to QWERTY users, numeric users – who use a "multitap" method of entering text messages on their phones – took nearly as long to create a message on the iPhone as they did on their numeric phones. There was no increase in efficiency despite the iPhone's corrective text approach, User Centric found.

The main reason for the inefficiency of text input on the input was the tiny keyboard, on which " all participants frequently selected keys that they had not intended." User Centric said that participants usually corrected these errors by using the backspace key to erase one character at a time. Only seven participants figured out how to use the corrective text feature on their own.

"For QWERTY users, texting was fast and accurate. But when they switched to the iPhone, they were frustrated with the touch sensitive keyboard," said Jen Allen a usability specialist at User Centric.

The firm did not say how long it took for iPhone users to use the keyboard more efficiently.