The first iPhone I ever saw or touched belonged to my friend Justin. After having owned two phones in a row with physical keyboards (a Samsung Blackjack and a Palm Treo), my first reaction was, “How on earth do you type on a touchscreen?”
The answer is, you learn, slowly. I’ve found that by rapidly flailing my thumbs as quickly as possible, things usually turn out for the best. And when they don’t, they end up on DamnYouAutoCorrect.com (mostly not safe for work).
Yes, I had to dig a bit to find a PG-13 one.
The iPhone is small enough that, when cradled in your hands, you can type on using both thumbs. The iPad however, especially in landscape mode, is not. In portrait mode you can hit most of the keys, but it’s awkward enough that I find myself holding the tablet with my left hand while poking out messages using the index finger on my right. The newer versions of iOS for the iPad support a split keyboard which moves each half of the keyboard closer to the outside of the screen. Unfortunately not every application supports or recognizes this feature and adjusts itself accordingly — for example when using the split keyboard on Facebook, the keyboard ends up overlaying the area where your typed text is being displayed.
I thought, for a while, that the answer would be an external, physical keyboard. Last year for my birthday, I asked for (and received) an iPad case with a built in keyboard, just like this one:
I used it for a while, but have mostly abandoned it. Here’s why:
01. Most iPad keyboards use Bluetooth, which affects the battery life of the iPad. It’s not super-dramatically less, but it’s less.
02. The iPad keyboard requires separate charging, which I always forget to do.
03. The keyboard, at 3/4 scale, is simply too small for me to type proficiently on. Between hunting for certain keys and having to constantly fix mistakes, I can type more rapidly (and more accurately) using the touch screen keyboard.
04. I don’t type that much on the iPad. Mostly it’s used for watching videos, reading (and occasionally responding to) e-mail, reading eBooks, and engaging in social media (Facebook and Twitter). If I’m going to work on my book, I’ll do it on a laptop.
05. The iPad case with a keyboard built in is so thick that it makes it unable to hold the iPad with one hand. It makes one of the sleekest tech inventions of all time and makes it 5x as thick. With the case on, the iPad is barely smaller than my Acer netbook.
iPad keyboards are an attempt to turn something (the iPad) into something it isn’t (a laptop). Until something a little sleeker comes along, I think I’m going to shelve my iPad keyboard for the time being.
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