Review: You Need ‘Thumb Keyboard’ for Your New Nexus 7 Tablet (or any other Android mobile device)

Typing on touchscreen devices’ virtual keyboards has always frustrated me. To be sure, it was far better than the T9 tap, tap, tap method using a phone’s numeric keyboard. However, ever since my first tablet (the original iPad), I’ve found that the productivity advantages offered by the larger screen were largely offset by the inability to type accurately.

Typing On a Tablet

Because the standard QWERTY-style keypad is shrunken, it’s nearly impossible to “touch type” on any tablet. Even if you can adapt to the key spacing, you have to place the tablet on your lap or on a table in order to do so. If you try to type otherwise, you must cradle it in your arm and hunt-and-peck with your free hand. Neither method is conducive to accuracy or speed. Plus, many common keys that aid in typing, such as the cursor, punctuation and number keys, are simply not there.

The significant problems with accuracy are then exacerbated by automated attempts to correct the typos, which is a maddening experience. Consequently, the typing systems on phones and tablets have built-in enhancers such as auto correct, misspelled word suggestions, predictive typing and auto first cap. I find that for the most part that these enhancements create a new set of problems such as inadvertently inserting crazy misspellings or first caps after an abbreviation. As I write/type for sustenance, all it takes is one mistakenly inserted predictive or auto-corrective spelling in a serious post in order for me to disable most typing “enhancements” altogether.

So, typing on a tablet is bound to produce far more typos than typing on anything that does not have a near-standard tactile keyboard. This means that you have to be sure to take the extra time and go back and correct your text. I found that simply locating the cursor on the insertion/deletion point was particularly annoying with both iOS and Android devices, especially in Web forms. Moving the cursor around on the touch screen in order to make corrections, or cut and paste. was an annoying hit-or-miss operation. In fact, one of the main reasons that I ditched my iPad was related to the poor performance of the hideous “keyslab.”

When I purchased my first Android device (an HTC EVO 4G smartphone), I was pleased as pink to discover the presence of cursor keys. This made it much easier to accurately move the cursor to the proper location within the text. That sealed the deal and I sold the iPad, purchased an Android tablet and never looked back. While cursor location control was greatly improved, initial speed and accuracy was not.

The standard Android (Honeycomb) keyboard. Nice, but it is impossible to use for touch-typing on a 7″ tablet. Your only option is hunt-and-peck.

In further search of a solution, I found that you can choose from and install a wide variety of keyboards that are available from the Google Play Store. Backtracking a bit, I also learned that you cannot install keyboards to any iOS device because Apple has pre-determined what is best for you, and does not trust that you’re capable of fooling around with anything other than iTunes downloads. Yes, I know that Apple included a thumb keyboard with the advent of iOS 5, but I tried it and the keys were too small and split so wide that you had to swivel your head from side-to-side while typing in order to view either side of the split keyboard. Plus, you cannot adjust the size or spacing of the keys, and cursor keys (among many others) were still missing.

Split keyboard introduced with Apple iOS 5.

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3 Responses

  1. Got to be honest, I’m getting on well with the defualt Jelly Bean keyboard on my Nexus 7. Lot’s of people swear by the many enhanced Andoid keyboards available on the market and I’m tempted to try. I guess I hold back because I don’t see much of a problem ‘out of the box’.

    PS. Ah just noticed my typo above, goes to show typing is never easy, even on an old fashioned PC keyboard 🙂

  2. Great article, exactly what I needed.

  3. Poppy says:

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon everyday.
    It’s always helpful to read through articles from other authors and use something from other sites.

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