In our iPad 2 review I mentioned that despite really liking the device, I never really could integrate the original iPad into my daily life in a meaningful way. I always ended up traveling with the iPad and a notebook or while around town I just kept a smartphone on me. That limited my iPad use to pretty much lounging around at the house, and even then I found myself turning to the laptop more often than not.

With the Xoom and iPad 2 I've been giving the tablet usage model another try. I've kept my usage mostly consumption focused. Browsing the web and reading emails. I really do prefer using a tablet for both of these things. I do wish the iPad 2 was faster when selecting lots of emails but the improvement over the original iPad is still considerable.

My holdup is this: while I love reading on the iPad 2, I have troubles contributing using it. Writing lengthy email responses or even posting comments on AT is just slower on the iPad than on a notebook. The solution can't be to just walk over to a laptop when I want to respond and just use the iPad when I'm reading - that seems horrible inefficient.

I could use a Bluetooth keyboard but that's also rather clunky. I feel like there has to be a better solution going forward, particularly as the tablet market grows. Is it voice? Or some sort of an integrated kickstand with more flexibility than what you get with the smart cover?

I feel like smartphones get a pass because it's easy to type on them regardless of where you're sitting. Tablets on the other hand need to be propped up against something and as a result are harder to type on in certain situations. They work fine on a desk but if I'm at a desk I'd rather use a notebook. What about when laying back on a couch?

I'm curious what you all think about this. Am I alone in finding tablet ergonomics a barrier? If not, what do you believe is the best solution for tablets going forward. I want to read and respond on a tablet as quickly as I can on a notebook. What needs to be built? Post your comments here and I'm sure we can get many of the tablet manufacturers to pay attention. I don't think they have stumbled across the best solution for this problem either, so what you say here might go a long way in making tablets better for everyone.



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  • acsa - Saturday, April 2, 2011 - link

    In business and industry there are a lot of applications, and the new quality of iPad is a breeze. But you have to wait 2-3 years until there will be a port of the systems. But in the private consumption there are only very few essential applications. You didn't mention any of them. Reply
  • alpha754293 - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    Voice recognition works well for English. What happens if you're using ANY other language besides English? My mom uses Chinese regularly, and I'm sure that there are others. One of the reasons why I didn't get an iPad originally was because of the lack of Hebrew support.

    You don't really want to load your tablet up with voice recognition dictionaries unnecessarily.

    I think that having a keyboard (regardless of form, but suppose that I stick with what the iPad/iPhone's got right now - touchscreen) that has adjustable sensitivity would be extremely beneficial.

    On my iPhone/iPod touch, I can probably type about 40 wpm. On a regular computer/on my laptop, I'm at 103 wpm. That means that for devices like iPhone/iPad, it has a tendency to be NOT sensitive enough to capture all of the keystrokes. Then I have to go back and correct it (which on Apple i-devices, is annoying and cumbersome).

    I think that it was the Sony Xperia that had arrow keys (as well as Blackberries) so it made it a little bit better, but Xperia's touchscreen was FARRR too slow for my typing speed, and Blackberries; again, work great if you're English or Latin-only-languages. Deviate from that, and you're pretty much SOL.
  • 4dm - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    Bluetooth keyboard, mouse, and WiDi drivers + support. If you want to use a "laptop", you can.

    Give it a removable bluetooth keyboard. It would have to be cheap to make (under $30 retail to buy) so that it is easily replaceable when you lose it or it breaks, but it snaps in to the tablet to charge.

    The keyboard is the absolute necessity, regardless of how "cool" touchscreens are. No other physical input device allows you the choice of up to 11 keys in a fraction of a second.
  • ravib123 - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    Isn't this kind of the same as when you use a netbook, I mean small keyboards and trackpads are always a problem for me with input speeds.

    I like the Zaggmate, however then it seems like a laptop almost, since you carry an extra casing around with you.

    For myself, I use the iPad 2 as a writing platform with a stylus (which is hard to find, since most are the size of a baby carrot).

    With some of the apps floating around you can do handwriting recognition for notes and other text. Plus with the raw drawing aspects it can be great for creative brainstorming in meetings and such.

    Ultimately, I think this question IS the reason that tablets will not be able to quickly overtake the Ultra Portable Laptop for the Small Business Owner or Employee.

    Large Enterprise can and do make custom applications to maximize the benefits of portability and battery life that these devices, but for the casual user tablets are almost toys ... Great to manage a TiVo, grab a news feed, read a quick email, browse anandtech, etc.
  • notanakin - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    OK, I admit I haven't read all the pages in the discussion (I got through about 10) so apologies if these points have already been made.

    For non-hardware solutions, there are several possibilities:
    - SMS text input style number pad with letters, just like you get on a mobile phone. Many people (not me, unfortunately) are incredibly fast with it. Put a virtual numeric pad on the bottom right and you're good to go with your thumb. (In fact, that's partyly why my wife didn't want an iPhone. She's used to SMS texting on the number pad on her phone and didn't like the dinky iPhone keyboard).
    - bring back Palm's Graffiti - slower than an onscreen keyboard perhaps, but for me: less prone to errors and surprisingly easy to learn.
    - my personal steampunk favourite: Morse code!! The tapping would be roughly equivalent to using SMS text input and you wouldn't have to tap in any particular place as for SMS-style texting.
  • pdoell - Friday, April 1, 2011 - link

    Hi Anand,
    I'm not sure if you've seen/experienced the iPhone touch input for the Japanese language, however it is an ingenious input method that could _only_ be done on a tablet. Instead of having one key for each sound in Japanese, for example, one key for "ka", "ki", "ku", "ke", and "ko", you have one key that if you press once gives you "ka". However if you place your finger on the "ka" key and swipe one of 4 directions (up/down, left/right) then you get all the 5 sounds. So you end up with a small keyboard with only a few keys ("ka", "ta", "ma", etc) but you can get very efficient input. Considering each Japanese kanji has an average of 2 sounds, you can input any of thousands of combinations in but 2 finger strokes. Even given that a set of sounds can have several different possible kanji, the iPhone presents a visual display that you can just point to the correct one.

    Actually, this looks to be faster than the most common Japanese input method, where you use 2 letters to enter a sound on an English keyboard. For example "ka" would be 'k' and 'a'. Simple yes, but there's another Japanese input where 25 of the keys are remapped to 25 sounds, one each. Nobody likes that one, but if you master it, it is truly a quick way to enter Japanese text.

    Given the choice, I'm sure most people would prefer the touch interface input method. It seems that way to me anyway; I am not a native speaker and my Japanese is quite awful, but maybe someone with more experience can comment? It seems to me that the Asian languages, being very visual are a little easier to adapt to a visual interface.

    I'm not suggesting that you switch to Japanese language Anand, however this ingenious input method makes me think that perhaps there is another way out there for English. Something that's halfway between Swype and a touch Qwerty keyboard? How about using braille on the touch screen? Maybe dual mini Swype pads, one for each hand? Hmmm. Sounds like all the good new input methods require us to learn something new.

    PS - I also did not have a chance to read all 22 pages of comments. This has generated a lot of input, but I know you'll read them all.
  • hedleyroos - Saturday, April 2, 2011 - link

    Someone already mentioned this, but I'll elaborate. It astounds me how deaf people can lip read so accurately. Deaf people have a smaller vocabulary than hearing people, and for software this is a good thing.

    I imagine a system where system commands can aim for above 90% accuracy via lip reading. For dictating the accuracy will be lower, but supplmentary UI (think smallish dropdown with autocomplete options, with spoken word 'yes' meaning the first match is good) can address this.

    And a big bonus is you don't annoy people while dictating.

    Hey, maybe simple hand gestures can also be recognized by the camera. Once again this is something deaf people do daily.

    Just putting this down in case some company comes along and tries to patent the idea. Prior art and all that.
  • migo - Saturday, April 2, 2011 - link

    When I got a tablet PC back in 2005 it worked out well because of the digitizer pen - I could hold the tablet in one hand and write in the other. It was also particularly handy for writing in multiple languages (I was learning Mandarin/Simplified Chinese at the time), and even for including accents and umlauts for various European languages. Writing is also an already learned skill - one of the reasons we use keyboards is because they were originally used for typewriters, and now it's because we're taught to use them for computers. Using pen input is the same for tablets.

    The other option is of course Swype for tablets that only use capacitive touch - I haven't yet used Swype on a tablet, but I've emulated it on an Eee Slate and an iPad, pretending that it would actually work, and it at least didn't cause any cramping, in the way that quickly typing one handed on a regular keyboard did (admittedly it worked perfectly well for short input, like entering a web address, or perhaps a tweet, but wouldn't even be good enough for this post I'm writing.

    Third solution is the hybrid format, such as the Compaq TC1100 or Motion M1300 with the protective case/keyboard add on, or in all likelihood the Asus Eee Pad Transformer (which being Android should also benefit from Swype, and conceivably a 3rd party capacitive pen of some sort, that should be usable as an alternate input system on Android).
  • Xyst - Sunday, April 3, 2011 - link

    Whatever happened to the Laser/IR projecting keyboards that were being tossed around in the earlier days of Palms and trios? I was never a big fan of the fold up keyboard of the same era, and I can only imagine since the light projected keyboards aren't around, then they weren't very good, but why not try and expand on that?

    That would give you the portability of the iPad still without the bulky peripheral and still be readily available. You could use an external add on or someone could build it into their tablet device for when the on-screen keyboard just doesn't cut it. It would let you set up like a laptop when needed, or use it as a pad/tablet for consumption only.
  • mediasorcerer - Sunday, April 3, 2011 - link

    i agree with you,i know this has been done,but surely someone can come up with a more elegant solution,like a case that rotates 360 degrees from a hinge on the edge,,so the keyboard is flat behind the ipad,and can be rotated out when needed?imagine a laptop,but the keyboard is underneath the body not on top,ah just get a laptop !!!!

    ,simple,get a mba /few hundred more and u get so much better everything!and be done with it,touch screens suck anyway,too dirty!!!

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