Apple's iPhone: The Future is Hereby Anand Lal Shimpi on July 2, 2007 6:13 PM EST
I've tried PDAs and I've tried all sorts of smartphones, but the device that won its stay in my life was the Blackberry. I've been through five different Blackberries over the past few years, including a brief stint with the Pearl and more recently, the Curve. When the iPhone was announced, I was intrigued by its promises of a fast, focused user interface, but I was concerned about the lack of a tangible keyboard.
You see, I can type pretty quickly on my Blackberries; I've written multiple pages of articles on them before, when I didn't have easy access to a notebook or when I had an idea strike me while in an unusual location. Anytime I'd pull my phone out to type down a message someone would always exclaim that they were shocked at how fast I could type on something so small. In my mind, the iPhone would inevitably lose out to the Blackberry because of its lack of a physical keyboard. Then I began testing the Samsung Blackjack and the Blackberry Curve.
The Blackjack is the perfect example of why the lack of a tangible keyboard is a non-issue. In order to attain such an attractive form factor, the Blackjack's keyboard is extremely cramped. Not only is it cramped, but if you type too quickly, the keys sometimes have difficulty registering, making you type things like anad instead of anand. The last Blackberry I used was the 7730 which had a huge keyboard by comparison. But with the Blackjack, I not only had to type slower, but I had to look at the keyboard while typing - something I rarely had to do on previous Blackberries. Then I tried the Curve.
I am Gigantor
The Blackberry Curve was a little better than the Blackjack, the issue with keystrokes not registering was not present (Blackberry's user base would definitely not stand for that), which made typing a bit easier. But the fundamental issue of a cramped keyboard remained; I had to keep looking at the keys to make sure I was hitting the right letters, and while I appreciated the form factor more than my enormous 7730, the Curve made me feel like I had the thumbs of a giant.
In both of these cases, the Curve and the Blackjack, the tactile feedback of the keyboard was hardly an advantage. The limiting factor to typing performance was the closeness of the keys and as a secondary limitation, the keystroke recognition issue on the Blackjack; in other words, the iPhone had a chance.
My first evening with the iPhone's keyboard was absolutely horrible. I had heard Apple's advice of starting with your index finger alone before graduating to two thumbs, but "dammit I am a fast thumb typer!" so I discarded the suggestion and went right to it. About an hour into trying to type anything I hated the iPhone, I wanted my Blackberry back and I wanted Apple to make me another phone with a real keyboard. The issue wasn't the lack of tactile feedback, it was the fact that my thumbs were hitting everything but the keys I wanted. I tried slowing down, but that didn't help much either, I admitted defeat and went to granny-typing with a single index finger. Even then I was making a ton of mistakes; each incorrect keystroke frustrated me to the point of needing prescription drugs. I called it a night and went to bed, I would tackle the iPhone in the morning.
One letter down, only ten more to go
The next day I took my iPhone and sat on the couch with it; away from all computers, and with a clean slate, I took my right index finger and started typing as many pages as I possibly could. I wrote some of this review, I wrote long emails to good friends, I text messaged everyone, I would not leave that damn couch until I had gotten better at typing on the iPhone.