Communicating is key(board)

| May 1, 2011 | 26 Replies

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?

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Tags: ,

Category: Nokia, Rant

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  • Adam F

    I wish they’d just get this thing pushed out the door, seems like we’ve been seeing ‘previews’ of PR2.0/anna/whatever since last fall, lets get a beta going or something.. anything to bring me portrait swype! 🙂

  • stylinred

    sounds interesting but knowing Microsoft i expect it to be really buggy and inaccurate for the next several months until a few dozen updates are targeted towards it 🙂

    • Rant

      It is very interesting stuff, there went a lot of effort and R&D into it. As far as the text explains, these developments are already into the current version of WP7.

  • Mark

    As an iPhone user I can confirm the keyboard is great… until it doesn’t recognise a word. Then it’s annoying. Nokia’s is actually quite good.

    • newtype

      iOS has the best keyboard, IMHO.

      • dsmobile

        Well not in other languages. I hear complains all the time about iOS and Finnish language auto correction.

      • j

        no. I need for example ö,ä etc.
        In symbian i can type them directly on the keyboard.

  • Marc

    god damn i fucking hate nokia now god damn it makes me sad that my n8 with the worlds fucking best camera gets hated because it doesnt have some eyecandy ui. fuck cant they just add some cool effects in smaller updates to make this long wait less painfull? and lastly why is it taking so fucking long to get pr2.0 on the n8? fuck the cheaper c7 got it but the flagship doesnt. if i dont get an update before end may fuck nokia and hello android

    • Marco

      I have to say: good luck with that crappy android…:)

  • Hexpoll

    Turn on autocorrect with a Symbian phone and the keyboard becomes pretty good. You can make mistakes and not even worry because the software will correct it for you. This goes for misspelling and hitting the wrong key. If you don’t want the suggestion, just tap the box above the keyboard that has what you actually typed.

  • yasu

    “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.”

    Not quite:

    As you can see, Symbian had had a split screen portrait keyboard since the 5800 days but someone at Nokia had the great idea to remove it.

    • harangue

      I did know something about that, but I haven’t had very extensive usage with S60v5 (luckily perhaps)

      But my article was referring mostly to Symbian 3 as that is the current OS for touch devices. Still though the implementation of the keyboard in S60v5 looks very poor and hard to use.

  • Rock

    Seriously I don’t see why they are going so slow with software. Symbian can’t be that hard to code for. Besides that keyboard thing is what I expected, (the predictive writing on keyboard) but someone at Nokia likes to go backwards.

  • Fritz Pinguin

    I would never settle for anything less than SWYPE. That is the way to go.

  • Having used the N8, E7, and most recently the C7, I can say the portrait keyboard will make the N8 a killer mobile device, the E7 slightly more usable, and the C7, well, remains an amazing device compared to other Nokias. The stock virtual portrait keyboard on the C7 is actually more user friendly in response and size compared to the also included Swype portrait keyboard that I’m actually more comfortable using the stock setup. While such waiting may be killing Nokia from a business standpoint, when it does come to the other two above models it should win some converts or at least get a few pulled out of drawers and dusted off.

  • larryg968

    Its funny how many recent articles on this website have been aimed at pointing out the flaws of symbian…. haha. Unfortunately its the truth. THe keyboard of my N8 is a pain

    • Accepting problem is first step toward solving it. If after accepting problem people (or company) focus to fix it. Like I said before it is easy to say it is not good but finding the actual “what is not good” is toughest part.

    • Jay Montano

      We have always been pointing out flaws in Symbian. In forms of rants/suggestions.

      I think now it’s more difficult to have patience with Symbian as we’ve been waiting incredibly long for certain core experiences to be fixed, yet haven’t.

    • harangue

      Yes there have been quite a few articles pointing out flaws in Symbian. Unfortunatly these flaws are there.
      But other platforms aren’t perfect either, they just use a different approach than Symbian does or did.

      Symbian has always been about adding feature after feature but they didn’t think about implementing it in a stellar way. This worked back in the early days since our expectations with software weren’t that high and tinkering with your OS was common practice.

      Nowadays though quality has gone up and mandatory user interference to keep a system running isn’t required anymore. It has to just work and also work in an elegant way. That’s where Symbian loses out.

      Rich in features and very powerful, but it lacks the right implementation with certain things.

  • Paul Grenfell

    I knew i should have waited for the E7.. At least it has a Slide out Qwerty..
    The Touch qwerty should have been released months ago, as part of the standard essential features of the N8.
    5 months i have been waiting for this.. Enough already, roll it out..Anna should have been given to N8 users well before the Astound..
    Cant wait for Navifirm to post it..

  • Hypnopottamus

    It never ceases to amaze me how fucking slow Nokia is! Symbian has so much potential as a high-end mobile OS, but Nokia is now trying to play catch. Nokia is chasing 2 year old devices. In its current iteration, Symbian is only competitive with the iPhone 3G and Android 2.0! Having “temporarily” moved on to an Android device (running Android 2.2 Froyo)until Nokia comes out w/ something competitive, I can say Symbian is leagues behind the competition at this point.

  • Jay Montano

    landscape QWERTY is quite palatable on Symbian^3 if you turn on prediction.

    But Windows Phone keyboard is really head and shoulders above it. Much more intelligent correction, better keyboard layout, better keyboard action when switching to symbols and also if you put the sound on, certain groups of keys have different sounds, helping distinguish between different regions. I’m looking forward to having this in a Nokia. Portrait KB ok too, though would prefer swype in that aspect.

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