Study: iPhone keypad less efficient than physical QWERTY keypads

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
A recent usability study found that average cell phone users are far more efficient using physical QWERTY keypads to type messages than they are when using the virtual keypad included with Apple Inc.'s new iPhone.



Global consulting firm User Centric, which had previously identified texting as potentially problematic for iPhone customers, said it commissioned the new survey to determine just how easy it is for conventional mobile phone users to transition to text input via the Apple handset's touchscreen keypad.



For the the study, the firm brought in a total of 20 participants who said they sent text messages at least 15 times per week -- ten of the participants owned a phone with a QWERTY keypad, and ten of the participants owned a phone with a numeric keypad.



During each session, participants were required to use their own phones to copy 12 standard messages that had been created for the study. The participants, none of which had ever used an iPhone, were then provided with one of the Apple handsets and asked to repeat the task.



"In general, participants took longer to enter text messages on the iPhone than on their own phone," User Centric wrote in a summary of the study. "Despite the keyboard similarities, QWERTY phone users took nearly twice as long to enter comparable messages on the iPhone compared to their own phone."



Specifically, participants were asked to copy 12 standard messages, each of which was between 104-106 characters in length (including spaces). Six of the messages each contained 8-10 instances of proper capitalization and punctuation, while the remaining six messages contained no capitalization or punctuation but had some abbreviations.



Participants were given little time to familiarize themselves with the iPhone's touch keyboard ahead of the study and therefore their texting abilities were still at the novice level. Throughout the study, however, User Centric said there were some "limited improvements in keyboard comfort as users progressed through the tasks on the iPhone."



"Overall, the findings in the study can be taken as a good representation of what iPhone text messaging is like for a customer who has just bought an iPhone and is using it for the first time," said Gavin Lew, Managing Director at User Centric. "It's important to consider the changes a person has to make when they switch to the iPhone.



Some specific observations from the July study are listed below:



Detailed Observations of User Text Entry on the iPhone Ergonomic IssuesMost participants felt that their fingertips were too large for the iPhone's touch keyboard.Most QWERTY phone users initially used the iPhone by holding it with both hands and typing with their two thumbs. However, by the end of the session, most had decided that it was easier for them to use one index finger to type.Over half of the participants stated that they would have preferred the feel of an actual key to the iPhone's touch keypad.Most participants noticed that there was no tactile feedback on the iPhone keypad.Some mentioned that the feel of the key on conventional phones helps them locate the desired key without having to focus on the actual keypad.General Interface IssuesParticipants expressed a great deal of frustration with the sensitivity of the iPhone touch keypad.Participants made an average of 11 errors per message on the iPhone compared to an average of 3 errors per text message on their own phone. Although the error rate was alleviated somewhat by the iPhone's self-correction feature, participants were still frustrated.In particular, participants struggled when they were trying to type using the Q & W keys or the O & P keys on the iPhone.5 out of 20 participants asked if the iPhone came with a stylus. They indicated that they could be more accurate with the stylus rather than their fingers due to the sensitivity of the screen.One female participant tried to interact with the iPhone keypad using her fingernail and was unsuccessful.The space bar, return, and backspace keys presented issues for many participants because these keys were spaced so closely to each other.No one discovered the drag and lift feature of the keyboard, which reduces errors.Many participants said they could not see themselves attempting text entry on the iPhone in distracting conditions.Specifically, participants did not think they could text message on the iPhone safely while driving.Predictive & Corrective Text IssuesOnly a few participants discovered and correctly learned to use the predictive and/or corrective text features on the iPhone. QWERTY phone users in particular had a tendency to backspace when they were correcting mistakes.Participants did not understand how the predictive / corrective text bubbles worked.6 out of 20 participants tried to touch the bubble to get the word in the text bubble to appear.Three participants tried hitting the backspace key because they associated the ?x' on it with the ?x' in the bubble.It was especially frustrating for participants when they attempted to place the cursor in the middle of a word.None of the participants discovered the magnifying glass feature while text messaging.During a follow-up task that involved correcting a note in the iPhone's Notes application, 6 out of 20 did discover the magnifying glass feature. However, not all participants realized that the feature helps place the cursor in addition to enlarging the text.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 98
    citycity Posts: 522member
    private
  • Reply 2 of 98
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    For the the study, the firm brought in a total of 20 participants who said they sent text messages at least 15 times per week -- ten of the participants owned a phone with a QWERTY keypad, and ten of the participants owned a phone with a numeric keypad.



    Given the methodology they picked, I'd say the "study" was a complete failure at showing the iPhone as an inefficient way to send messages. I'm sure I could get the same result from merely switching out brands of keyboard (but not layout) under a desktop PC user. Motor skills never transfer immediately from one input device to another.
  • Reply 3 of 98
    Comparing first time usage to long time usage...hmmm. Whatever floats your boat, but seems rather useless information.
  • Reply 4 of 98
    well of course everything is hard the first time you try to do it.



    playing baseball, driving, using wii controllers, using an iphone keypad, etc.



    it's called learning curve.
  • Reply 5 of 98
    dreildreil Posts: 14member
    http://macdailynews.com/index.php/we...omments/14615/



    Quote:

    MacDailyNews Take: This is so interesting that we decided to conduct a similar study of our own!



    MacDailyNews took a total of 20 participants who had watched golf on TV, but never played the game. 10 of the participants had played field hockey. The other 10 had played ice hockey. Participants were give a bag of clubs, many balls, and were driven out to the first tee and told to begin play.



    We recorded these detailed observations:

    ? Most participants felt either that the ball was too small or the clubs were too long to hit accurate shots.

    ? Most felt it was easier to watch golf on TV than to actually play the game.

    ? Most participants noticed that the sand hindered their shots.

    ? Most ice hockey players initially held the club like an ice hockey stick.

    ? All ice hockey players believed playing ice hockey to be easier than playing golf.

    ? Most field hockey players intitally held the club like a field hockey stick.

    ? All field hockey players believed playing field hockey to be easier than playing golf.

    ? Participants made an average of 11 strokes per hole higher than actual golfers (18 handicap).

    ? In particular, participants struggled with driving, approach shots, chipping, putting, sand shots, and general etiquette.

    ? One female field hockey participant tried to jump her golf cart over a stream, but was unsuccessful.

    ? 5 out of 20 participants asked if the golf tees could be used for every shot.

    ? Participants expressed a great deal of frustration with the game of golf.



    Based on our study's findings, it appears that non-golfers are likely to eventually increase their level of play with practice, hence actually becoming golfers.



    Our study indicates that people who have never played golf are likely to have some level of initial frustration with the game. Although our analysis suggests that both types will eventually adapt to the game with practice, the learning curve for golf will be slightly steeper for field hockey players than for ice hockey players based mainly on that unfortunate golf cart and stream episode.



    Learning to use Apple's iPhone expertly is immeasurably easier than learning how to play golf at its most basic.



    Take this with a grain of salt....
  • Reply 6 of 98
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,472member
    It's all over. Apple should just take the iPhone off the market. Nobody wants it. Nobody likes it. Nobody can use it. Everybody thinks it's a failure. All the "studies" prove it. And while they're at it Apple should take the iPod off the market too. It still doesn't have an FM tuner and still doesn't support Ogg Vorbis.



    What were they thinking anyway?
  • Reply 7 of 98
    I had difficulty getting use to not having real buttons for the first week. At this point, I am definitely faster, not slower, than I was on my Blackberry. Both scenarios work fine, just a matter of getting accustomed to one.
  • Reply 8 of 98
    bdkennedy1bdkennedy1 Posts: 1,459member
    The iPhones keyboard will never be successful with the masses because it takes away one of our senses, touch. It is impossible to type quickly without feedback from the keys.



    However it would be much easier to type if Apple had an option to make the keyboard full-screen with a 30% transparency.
  • Reply 9 of 98
    gqbgqb Posts: 1,934member
    Quote:

    During each session, participants were required to use their own phones to copy 12 standard messages that had been created for the study. The participants, none of which had ever used an iPhone, were then provided with one of the Apple handsets and asked to repeat the task.



    What an absolutely bogus "study"!!!

    From their own FAQ... sample size was 20 users.



    Check out their client list...

    http://www.usercentric.com/UC/experi...p?menu=1&sub=0



    Verizon, Motorola, Microsoft.



    Another one for RoughlyDrafted's 'bogus iPhone issues' list.
  • Reply 10 of 98
    bauchbauch Posts: 20member
    Half as efficient? I type about 50wpm on my iPhone, sure its not as fast as a full sized keyboard but its just as fast, if not faster with its error correcting, as using the tiny buttons on another device like a Treo.
  • Reply 11 of 98
    physguyphysguy Posts: 920member
    And another one to complain to AI's editor regarding the totally misleading headlines. Even the conclusion quoted from the study...



    Quote:

    Overall, the findings in the study can be taken as a good representation of what iPhone text messaging is like for a customer who has just bought an iPhone and is using it for the first time," said Gavin Lew, Managing Director at User Centric. "It's important to consider the changes a person has to make when they switch to the iPhone.



    does not support the AI headline!!!!!!
  • Reply 12 of 98
    "Study claims iPhone keypad half as efficient as QWERTY keypads"



    For starters, the iPhone keypad IS a QWERTY keypad. I'm so tired of people comparing iPhone to QWERTY. It makes it sound like the iPhone is in some completely foreign layout.



    "Study claims iPhone keypad half as efficient as PLASTIC keypads" would be far more accurate.



    And, as others pointed out, the methodology is completely bogus. Of course the iPhone is going to be a little harder to work with for the first time than the phone someone has had for months or years. To do this study right, they'd need to have people who have never used a QWERTY keyboard on a phone at all, and get them to try both on the same day.



    Personally, it took less than 10 minutes for me to be better on the iPhone keyboard than my Treo. Mostly that was due to the excellent predictive text correction, which is far better than anyone else's out there. I can easily type 30+ words-per-minute with near 100% accuracy on my iPhone now, which is plenty good for emails and text messages.



    I can't believe after all this time, people are still going after the keyboard as iPhone's weak link, despite the fact that all the FUD about the keyboard has been debunked a thousand times over. It's the same thing with the battery, which is far better than any mobile phone's battery I've ever had.



    If you want to make a case against the iPhone, go after the many other flaws that have been pointed out by actual owners, like the lack of an integrated Inbox, the lack of global search, no cut, copy, paste, not being able to send more than one image at a time in an email, not being able to easily send a contact card to another user, etc.
  • Reply 13 of 98
    For this to be valid, they would really have to compare long time BlackBerry users to long time iPhone users.



    This experiment has quite a few flaws.
  • Reply 14 of 98
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,549moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GQB View Post


    What an absolutely bogus "study"!!!

    From their own FAQ... sample size was 20 users.



    Check out their client list...

    http://www.usercentric.com/UC/experi...p?menu=1&sub=0



    Verizon, Motorola, Microsoft.



    Another one for RoughlyDrafted's 'bogus iPhone issues' list.



    Not to mention they were deliberately trying to back up a statement they made earlier:



    "Global consulting firm User Centric, which had previously identified texting as potentially problematic for iPhone customers"



    So they think that it's problematic and then conduct a study to see if they were right. This reminds me of the Family Guy news headline:



    "Tom Tucker: Coming up next: Can bees think? A new study indicates that no, they cannot."



    It's not so impressive when the answer isn't what you want it to be.
  • Reply 15 of 98
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    Global consulting firm User Centric, which had previously identified texting as potentially problematic for iPhone customers, said it commissioned the new survey to determine just how easy it is for conventional mobile phone users to transition to text input via the Apple handset's touchscreen keypad.



    So it's not super-simple to "transition" to the iPhone's keyboard. Oh no, it's doomed!



    Indeed, more Verizon, etc.-funded FUD.
  • Reply 16 of 98
    To be frank, I didn't much like the iPhone's keyboard either. The thickness of the screen's glass is enough to cause visual distortion between the surface and the display. Although this "study" was small, I think they've hit the nail on the head. Nothing is more efficient than direct tactile feedback. Something this iteration of the iPhone can never offer.
  • Reply 17 of 98
    0sx0sx Posts: 9member
    Note to self, never hire global consulting firm User Centric to do any surveys. They appear to be run by amateurs.
  • Reply 18 of 98
    12 messages?



    People get PAID to write up studies like this???



    paid by whom is the question I guess....
  • Reply 19 of 98
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by bdkennedy1 View Post


    The iPhones keyboard will never be successful with the masses because it takes away one of our senses, touch. It is impossible to type quickly without feedback from the keys.



    However it would be much easier to type if Apple had an option to make the keyboard full-screen with a 30% transparency.



    I couldn't disagree more. Several people have gotten 40-50 words-per-minute on iPhone's keyboard, and I'm getting up to that speed myself. What's so important about the touch of a key, anyway? It's not like when you press an "a" it sends an "a" feeling to your finger. All the keys feel pretty much the same. It's the consistent position of the keys that allows your fingers to learn the muscle memory. A virtual keyboard is no different in this regard. You get just as much feedback from touching a piece of glass as you do from touching a plastic keyboard. The only thing that stops people from getting 90+ words-per-minute on a phone keyboard is the fact that you only have two thumbs, as opposed to ten fingers on a full-sized board.



    And I still don't think the larger landscape keyboard is better than the smaller portrait one for me. All that does is force me to move my thumbs farther for each key, slowing me down considerably. But I do think Apple should offer landscape typing for emails and text messages, for the sake of users who do find that easier.
  • Reply 20 of 98
    It's too bad they couldn't loan out iPhones for 10 days and THEN compare these customers relative abilites.



    I'd be curious to see the differences posed by switching QWERTY tacticle keyboards with DVORAK versions ... supposedly a much more efficient keyboard layout (at least my European friends tell me ). There is obviously a significant learning curve with moving over to either a revolutionary new touchscreen OR a different keyboard layout.



    On a different note, is it possible to use DVORAK on the iPhone ? I suspect if not such functionality will be introduced when the device comes to the EU. Maybe the improved layout will become popular to use on the iPhone.
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