With the much anticipated Anna update to Symbian there is something ‘big and important’ coming to Symbian: a portrait keyboard.
Considering it took Nokia a while to even show a preview of it or even have it in devices, one can imagine the time that should go into developing a good QWERTY keyboard.
Unfortunatly though even from what is available to see and test the portrait keyboard isn’t revolutionary nor does it justify the time it took Nokia to develop it.
Looking at the future we can expect Anna as an update but we will also see Nokia’s Windows Phone inevitably join the ranks at Espoo. Luck will have it that Windows Phone reportedly has one of the greatest keyboards in the mobile OS industry, perhaps only bested by the iPhone’s.
The guys over at WP central had a short story about the keyboard in WP7 on their site with a link to a piece by MS that amazed me how much work went into making the keyboard. ( you can read it here )
Basically it comes down to this: They made an extensive algorithm that can predict what letter the user will type in next and the OS then makes the ‘touch area’ around that predicted next letter a little bigger making tapping the wrong letter less likely.
That was our starting premise, we wanted to have the best text-input solution in the world. When it comes to digital communication, the task of getting an idea from your head to the keyboard is really important.
A small extract from the full text on Microsofts research site but it tells an important tale, a very important tale.
Going back to Symbian, text input isn’t really that bad that it becomes unusable, yet it does have the ability to aggrevate the user to a point that you wish they thought about what they were doing at Nokia.
A simple example is typing a short to medium length sms message and just when you’re ready to send it you see it contains multiple mistakes. In part this is due to the keyboard apparantly not being multitouch.
If text selection or cursor placing was excellent on Symbian this wouldn’t be a real issue. But unfortunatly it isn’t. Just to add to the problem, a hyperactive accelerometer doesn’t help either.
Changing from landscape QWERTY back to portrait T9 because of a small movement is annoying and that wouldn’t really be a problem if there were a portrait QWERTY.
What it all comes down to is this. Interaction with our devices is key, especially with the focus now shifting from the traditional voice calling to web browsing, facebook and twitter. Text input has taken a far more important role in our phones than it ever did.
Just think about it; a crappy keyboard for you PC would also agrevate the heck out you, or wouldn’t it?