The Keyboard & Ergonomics

Apple can build touchscreen devices, I wasn't worried about that aspect of the iPad. Although surprising was the fact that the iPad's screen feels just slightly less responsive than the iPhone's. I'd say it's somewhere in between the Nexus One and the iPhone. It's possible that it's harder to build a uniformly responsive capacitive touch screen at such a large size.

What I was worried about was the keyboard. The iPhone's keyboard is difficult to adjust to but it can be done. You can hold the iPhone the same way you would a smartphone with a physical keyboard and all you lose is tactile feedback. Throw in some intelligent auto correction software and you're good to go.

This is one aspect of the iPhone experience that doesn't translate well. With the iPad you lose the tactile feedback of a physical keyboard, but you also lose the ergonomics.

The iPhone's keyboard is roughly the size of your average smartphone keyboard, but the iPad's keyboard is about 60% the size of a standard keyboard in portrait mode, and 85% in landscape. Thankfully Apple has done a good job of not scaling down key size and spacing, pulling a page from the iPhone handbook and just using different virtual keyboards depending on the app or what mode you put the keyboard in:


Default keyboard mode


Hit the .?123 key and you get this - note the undo button


Hit the #+= key and you get this - note the redo button

The iPad keyboard works just like you would expect a virtual keyboard to work. No, not like the virtual keyboards you’re used to, but instead like a virtual representation of a real keyboard. If you know how to type on a regular keyboard, you’ll quickly be able to do the same on the iPad. The keyboard learning curve is definitely flatter than on the iPhone but it still exists. Touch typing is very possible.

The problems actually have to do with the ergonomics of the device itself. Put a notebook on your lap and you rest your wrists on either side of the trackpad as your fingers drape over the keys. You can't do this on an iPad. The bottom of the keyboard is less than an inch away from the edge of the device. In this sense it’s kind of like using a tiny netbook.

For typing, the ideal position is with the iPad flat on a desk with your wrists resting on the desk as well. It's akin to writing in a notebook so it should work well for students. It's still not as comfortable as using a laptop but its passable.


Ideal typing position on the iPad

Where the ergonomics really fail is if you don't have a desk to support your wrists with. Then you've got to either hold the device with one hand and peck at it with another, or do some uncomfortable stuff with your lap.


Note what I'm doing with my thumbs, that's the only way to get the iPad to stop sliding down my legs

You can actually hold the iPad with two hands and use your thumbs to type on it like a giant smartphone. You won’t last long doing this but it’s fine for entering in web addresses, Google searches or writing a short email response. The same holds true for holding the iPad in one hand and typing with the other. It works, but isn’t suitable for long use.


One handed


Giant Smartphone

With it resting on your lap you can’t lay as far back on a couch as you’d like, but you don’t have to be totally upright to use the iPad comfortably. There is a happy medium, but it’s just not quite as relaxed as I’d like it to be.


Sitting more upright is necessary

These aren’t show stoppers, but they are aspects of the device that don’t just work. The form factor is great, but when doing a lot of typing or trying to get a little too relaxed there are issues. Just like laptop usage is only comfortable in certain positions, iPad (or tablet) use is only comfortable in certain positions. The two sets of positions are just different.

 

Putting aside my ergonomics issues, once you figure out what works best you can actually get a lot of writing done on the iPad. In fact I wrote approximately 40% of this review on the iPad, and while my typing was slower than on my keyboard, the experience was a nice break from the traditional keyboard/mouse setup.

Spending Money Where it Counts: The Display iPad Autocorrection: Withholding the Answer
POST A COMMENT

108 Comments

View All Comments

  • vol7ron - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    There's been rumors the iPhone 4g will be talked about tomorrow by Apple. Do you have any insight into this?

    vol7ron
    Reply
  • Griswold - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4g Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    I don't understand the point of this link?
    Perhaps you want to look at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IPhone

    Data Network Technology and iPhone technology are not synonymous.
    Reply
  • A5 - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    Unless AT&T has suddenly deployed a 4G network (or they're going to Sprint), then this new phone isn't going to be called the iPhone 4G. Also, the stuff they're announcing tomorrow are the features of iPhone OS 4.0, not new iPhone hardware. Reply
  • vol7ron - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    I'd rather not hear about the hardware at this point, but it'd be nice to say that Apple would up the clock on the 3GS (what I have). Hearing about the OS 4.0 is nice.

    I thought the "G" has nothing to do do with the wireless technology network. While they both stand for "generation", Apple's iPhone/OS pair will still be called the iPhone 4G, regardless if it runs on 3G Network or CDMA technology, or if the OS is upgraded afterwards; if this is confusing, think about the iPhone 2G - it runs on the 3G network and can be upgraded to OS 3.0, but it is still a iPhone 2G due to the initial hardware/OS release.

    -----

    The developer meeting was actually quite nice. There were a few surprises, but nothing huge - just a bunch of much-needed updates :) There will more-than-likely be a few more OS4.0 goodies come June with the official iPhone 4G release.
    Reply
  • Internet User - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    That's incorrect. The naming conventions that Apple typically uses were thrown out the window. The first generation iPhone runs on the 2G EDGE network. The 3G (second gen) and 3GS (third gen) both run on the 3G network. We don't know what the fourth iteration will be called. It won't run on a 4G network, but it will be the 4G iPhone. Reply
  • vol7ron - Friday, April 9, 2010 - link

    Perhaps you are right, but I thought I remember hearing Jobs talk about the naming that went into the iPhone.

    Technically, I think that what happened supports your argument, but we've all seen companies change their logical naming patterns. The first iPhone, as with any first generation, was called the "iPhone", with no suffixed 1G or 2G. It wasn't until the 3G came out (on OS 2.0), where there was question about its name. I think what was talked about was that the beta versions were considered 1G; the first retail release was considered 2G; and the second was 3G.

    The 3GS is where it really breaks that argument, because the 3GS was released with 3.0, so technically it would be called the iPhone 4G. Instead they stuck with the "3G" and added the "S", which they said stands for "speed". However, those "2G" phones that were upgraded to OS 3.0, still work with the 3G network, but are still considered "iPhone" (w/o the suffix, but still unofficially: iPhone 2G).

    In either case, I'm willing to say that I'm wrong, since a lot of it is vague memory. That, and the fact that this article is about the iPad and not the iPhone :) I was just a little curious about OS 4.0, but I was offered an exclusive direct link on the developers briefing, so I found everything out anyhow.

    vol7ron
    Reply
  • nilepez - Thursday, April 8, 2010 - link

    I don't know about AT&T, but Verizon began testing LTE last year and is deploying LTE in some markets this year. Until Apple announces they're partnering with Verizon (or Sprint) or we see FCC submissions, I'll assume it's vaporware....and frankly, I'm not switching from my Sero plan for a phone. Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Page 2: Since this isn't the 1980s, the iPad only has three four physical buttons on the device.

    I might be reading it wrong but the "three four" seemed out of place. Maybe that was supposed to be a "three or four", or perhaps you were going to come back to it?

    vol7ron
    Reply
  • vol7ron - Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - link

    Page 5: "Tap it twice while you're playing music and playback controls appear, Also when..."
    Perhaps there should be a period where the comma is and a comma after "Also"?

    BTW, not purposefully checking for errors, just looking out for ya.
    vol7ron
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now