Aug 11th, 2009

Software keyboards on mobile phones are a HUGE issue when you talk about the usability of the product. There are a TON of different elements that make up the overall user experience and these are often boiled down to a “I love it” or an “It sucks” with little physical evidence to prove the opinion. And to be honest, a lot of it is a matter of preference. But Lukas Mathis from did a much more thorough review in an article titled “Virtual Keyboards on iPhone and Android” that deserves a close look.


The review takes a close look at the following elements that make up the overall software keyboard evaluation:

  • Size (pixels and physical dimensions)
  • Focus
  • Speed
  • Auto-correction
  • Dynamic Key Resizing
  • Language Support
  • Landscape Keyboard
  • Multitouch

The overwhelming winner of this battle is Apple’s iPhone and I can’t say I disagree. While I haven’t used the iPhone keyboard for any extended period of time, I wouldn’t adamantly oppose the notion that the keyboard is generally considered better than Android’s own. But still… I can’t help but believe that Android has the edge. Why?

  1. Google will continue to improve Android’s native on-screen keyboard
  2. 3rd parties will build their own on-screen keyboards to be placed in non-Google Experience devices (HTC Sense, Motorola Blur, etc…)
  3. Half of the review is still based on the actual device… and I’m assuming the 3.7-inch screen on the Motorola Sholes will have a drastic and positive impact on the usability of its software keyboard.
  4. Be reminded that by the end of next year there will probably be 50+ Android Phones on the market, all trying their darndest to provide the best software keyboard on the market.

Do the above 4 points mean that Android’s keyboard will inevitably win? No. But if you ask me, it means that it will inevitably narrow the gap and it has a good chance at being equal if not surpassing Apple’s own.

Regardless of which side of the fence you’re on, it is refreshing to see such an in-depth look at an element of touchscreen phones that is often debated but rarely dissected. Props to the author and here is hoping that in the not too distant future the same objective comparison might have a different outcome.

The last few days, Lukas seems to have been hitting an awful lot on software keyboards and has made a few posts since on interesting topics related:

Different Android Keyboards:

Retype C – German Keyboard:

[IgnoreTheCode via JKonTheRun]

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