John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Study: Novice iPhone Users Text Like Novice iPhone Users

iphonekeyboard.jpgThe iPhone’s “virtual keyboard” technology presents early challenges for some users, particularly those accustomed to a physical keyboard. In a new study by usability consultancy User Centric, it took QWERTY users almost twice as long to create the same message on the iPhone as it did on their QWERTY phone. “For QWERTY users, texting was fast and accurate,” said User Centric’s Jen Allen. “But when they switched to the iPhone, they were frustrated with the touch-sensitive keyboard.”

So there is some merit to those early concerns about the device’s virtual keyboard after all. But just a bit. Because the methodology of User Centric’s study didn’t allow for much of a learning curve.

A total of 20 participants were brought in for one-on-one usability sessions with a moderator. All 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. In addition, they were provided with an iPhone for use during the study. None of the participants were iPhone owners. … Although participants were given one minute to familiarize themselves with the iPhone’s touch keyboard, their texting abilities on the iPhone were still at the novice level.”

In other words, User Centric’s study of iPhone keyboard usability didn’t account for improvement over time, which most reviewers, and even Apple CEO Steve Jobs himself, have said is essential to its mastery.

“The iPhone has the best, most advanced keyboard in any mobile device,” Jobs told Walt Mossberg back in June. “Like all small keyboards, it takes three or four days to get used to. IPhone users will quickly learn to trust its intelligence to correct their mistakes automatically. So far, everyone who has used it loves it and reports that they are typing as fast or faster than they did on their Treo or BlackBerry or other smart phone. … We think the iPhone’s keyboard is one of its greatest assets and competitive advantages.”

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— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work