iPhone text entry thoughts


I've recently been convinced in how good the iPhone is for entering text, and I wanted to share it. It's just anecdotal evidence, but I'm pretty convinced.

Now, I have an iPhone for testing, but I still use my LG CU500, as it has a great Java VM and HSDPA, and it folds up small in my pocket and I don't have to worry about scratching it or anything. When it comes to texting, I'm quite comfortable with using T9 predictive text, and am pretty speedy with it after years of practice, so I've never felt at a loss.

I have a friend, however, who hated - and I mean *hated* - getting more than one or two SMS messages at a time on his phone. First it was a RAZR, which is understandable, than a few different Windows Mobile phones with full-on thumb keypads. The combination of the poor user interfaces and the awful keypads made exchanging text messages with him pretty painful, and I'd normally get the absolute minimal possible response in return: "ok","yes", "no" or even "y" and "n" if he could get away with it. And if I sent more than two messages at once? Prepare for an angry phone call. I think the quote once was something like, "STOP MAKING MY PHONE BEEP CONSTANTLY!"

This person is now a texting fiend with his iPhone.

Seriously, I can't keep up, and like I said, I'm no slouch. The LG's SMS interface doesn't help all that much as new messages interrupt the message editing process, so you have to hit "ignore" or "view" when a new one comes in, but even then it's just generally impossible for me to keep up. He'll get off 2, 3 or 4 messages before I can respond to the first one. It's astounding. Lately, I've been consciously watching our interaction in preparation for writing this post, and doing my absolute best to keep up to see if I can, and pretty much, I can't. His messages are longer, more readable, and come at a faster clip than mine, without exception.

So let's examine this for a minute. First, there's the fact that an person who hated entering text into his phone, now feels comfortable enough to have 10 minute long "chats" using it. And, this person is able to consistently beat an experienced texter using his favorite phone and predictive text entry. Breaking it down, I'd say that the iPhone's IM-like SMS interface is the reason he's able to crank out messages so quickly, and the reason he's now texting so much, is simply because he's using his phone for text entry more - email, calendar, sms, web, etc. - and that translates into not thinking twice about chatting away using SMS.

To me this example taught me a couple things:

1) The iPhone's accessibility and ease of use (which I've always been convinced of) isn't just about making things easier right away, but is nice enough that users keep coming back and become proficient over time using it. It's sort of an obvious thing to say, I know, "if you use something regularly you'll get better at it", no duh. But watching for myself such a drastic turnaround is enlightening.

2) Touch-screen inputs shouldn't be blown off as just fads, as they are obviously just as quick as thumb pads for entering text, and again, if combined with a friendly GUI like the iPhone, may lead to even more productivity simply because of extended use. I kind of felt this before, using my N800's touch screen, but this just cemented it in my mind.

It's still impressive to me how much of a game changer the iPhone has become - it's not every day that a product builds such hype and lives up to expectations and more, to the point of showing me new things six months after its release. Slap 3G on the thing and open it up to developers, and it's going to be really hard to compete with in the years to come, trust me.


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