An astonishingly obvious advance in interface design
May 20, 2002 7:16 AM   Subscribe

An astonishingly obvious advance in interface design Your mobile phone's keyboard has been rendered obsolete by this inspired rethinking of buttons and the spaces between them. The manifacturer's home page is here
posted by hmgovt (40 comments total)
Not very applicable to the US, though: SMS technology here is barely off the ground. Plus, that keyboard is huge; the phone seems to be twice its original size for it, at which point it's more convenient to just go with a Blackberry-type device. Also, the keypad are alphabetical, not QWERTY. I hate that.

Why not just get used to thumbing through a regular numeric keypad? Any Filipino can tell you how easy it is. ;)
posted by brownpau at 7:54 AM on May 20, 2002

.... keypad is alphabetical. Oy.
posted by brownpau at 7:55 AM on May 20, 2002

I think the Nokia thing, where it guesses which word you're trying to type, is fantastic. I can't imagine how this could be much quicker as there's still the same number of keystrokes required.
posted by Summer at 8:03 AM on May 20, 2002

brownpau -- that device that they've got is just an "LCD typewriter" by the looks of it. It's not supposed to be a phone. When you look at a picture of a person holding the device (inside of the crappy flash demo), you can see about how big the keyboard is -- probably 20% larger than your current keypad.

I'll withhold my judgement until either I get to play with one or an objective usability study comes out. I'm not holding my breath for either event to come too quickly.
posted by zpousman at 8:10 AM on May 20, 2002

I've tried to use SMS on my Nokia 8620 on quite a few occasions. That auto-text-complete feature has gotten in the way every single time. I will confess, until I dig out the manual and look at it carefully, my dislike of the feature is only half-hearted. I've heard many say they find it valuable.

Perhaps if someone were to overlap the DigitWireless technology with the Fitaly Keyboard layout we'd have a real winner.
posted by theRegent at 8:12 AM on May 20, 2002

The phone doesn't seem to be large at all.. if anything, the phone is pretty small - check out the 'erognomic comparison' on their web site.

And the number of keys you have to press are less by far.. regular typing, and all. Check out the comparison they have on the site.

Although, an attempt at Qwerty may have been interesting.. maybe change the number pad idea and turn it on its side so you can do something like that? I don't think it'd be possible. Plus, isn't qwerty only useful for English-speaking people?

But I think this is a pretty cool idea.. maybe they'll incorporate it into my Treo before I buy one later this year.
posted by rich at 8:13 AM on May 20, 2002

Summer: Yes but guessing could work with this keypad too, and it's not the same number of keystrokes: c is three keystrokes on the standard interface and one in this one. As for the non-qwerty keyboard: cellphone users have grown out of that anyway since the order of the characters is serial.
This is cool and smart.
posted by talos at 8:16 AM on May 20, 2002

I just swapped my old Nokia 6150 -- a gorgeous workhorse of a phone, that's lasted me years -- for a hand-me-down 3210 with T9 predictive messaging. My thumb thanks me. (theRegent: the knack with it is not to look at the screen until you've reached the end of each word, otherwise it really throws you back into the old multiple-presses thing.)

And yeah, Fitaly would have been a real leap for this new keyboard, though awful for new users. Don't know how I took notes on my Palm before I got it.
posted by riviera at 8:20 AM on May 20, 2002

I wouldn't want to try that if I had fat fingers.
posted by quirked at 8:21 AM on May 20, 2002

Not bad. I still just want one of these, though.
posted by Hackworth at 8:26 AM on May 20, 2002

So how soon will it be before my Cingular dealer is trying to sell me a Nokia with a funky new keypad like this? And how soon will it be before I can actually afford one?
posted by katieinshoes at 8:27 AM on May 20, 2002

why not develop voice recognition software for text messaging... phones already have a mic, add to the combination of sprint's voice activated dialing...
posted by sixtwenty3dc at 8:27 AM on May 20, 2002

because if you are willing to speak into your phone to create a text message... why don't you just make a phone call?
posted by theRegent at 8:32 AM on May 20, 2002

Talos: on my Motorola, and I suspect most phones who have their dictionary turned on, it would require one keystroke per letter to enter a word if the phone recognises the word. That plus one keystroke to enter it into the txt message at the end of every word.

If the word you're after is made up of the same number depressions (e.g. good and home) you can scroll through the options until you find the word you want.

I think it's pretty smart but I thought all phones came with that technology.
posted by oddity at 8:34 AM on May 20, 2002

"1/3 the area of a credit card"

There's a nice picture here.
posted by NortonDC at 8:35 AM on May 20, 2002

it's not the same number of keystrokes: c is three keystrokes on the standard interface and one in this one

No, no, no, it IS. Predictive text means the phone guesses from the context whether you're trying to type an a, b or c. You never press more than once per letter. Anyone who's got a Nokia but isn't using this, learn how. It's much, much faster. And it encourages you to write properly spelt sentences rather than text garbage.
posted by Summer at 8:36 AM on May 20, 2002

i can type about 3/4 as fast on my t900 (motorola 2-way) as i can on a normal keyboard.. plus, it doesn't strain my thumbs either... nice idea though.
posted by lotsofno at 8:43 AM on May 20, 2002

Beyond ease-of-use issues, the design is just so damn elegant. I think a lot of people will buy it just because it looks cool.

(But not me. I hate typing on a phone, and I've got enough gadgets to carry around.)
posted by me3dia at 8:56 AM on May 20, 2002

I like my predictive text too, Summer.

But when someone sends you "RT M8! C U DN PUB L8R 2NITE?", what do you do? Sending them back a perfectly spelt, punctuated and capitalized message always seems too formal and a little bit elitist to me.

I need a predictive text system that guesses what I'm typing normally and then TRNSL8S IT N2 OLD SKUL TXT MSGS which would otherwise take me hours to write. Maybe I'm just sad.
posted by dlewis at 8:56 AM on May 20, 2002

properly spelt <giggle><giggle>

But seriously, thank you, riviera, for a simply phrased description of how this feature is supposed to work. Understanding that, it makes sense.

However, it's still giving me lousy feedback as I go along. This is probably due to the nature of "auto-complete" features within computer software that display the current "best guess" as you go along. This was the feature I was expecting.
posted by theRegent at 8:58 AM on May 20, 2002

I have predictive text on my Ericsson, and I hate it. I was trying to access something using my WAP Browser, and it kept "predicting" the wrong site that I was trying to access. I got sick of the bad prediction, turned it off, and did it the manual way. Then again, I don't mind thumbing it.. and because I don't use the text functionality too much, I don't particularly care. Besides, if I needed to, I could just get the keyboard attachment.
posted by mkn at 9:15 AM on May 20, 2002

In any case, predictive software can't be perfect, so you still end up having to correct for the errors when it guesses wrong, no? (I find it hard to believe you NEVER press more than once per letter, and never have to go back to correct a software error)

Also, it makes you learn the software, rather than the system conforming to you. Meanwhile, I think this new keypad is a big step towards the hardware/software conforming to the user instead.

I think that's a better solution (instead of software trying to figure out if you're trying to get 'A' 'B' or 'C', actually being able to hit the letter is a better solution).

Autocomplete software I think is much more useful in completing whole words, like word processing software.
posted by rich at 9:21 AM on May 20, 2002

Yes, you're right oddity and summer. I don't use the predictive text because most of my messages are in Greek and the feature has only very recently been available (I think)- plus Greek is a language with case, number and person endings which, I would imagine, will tend to make prediction a little bit more complicated...
posted by talos at 9:29 AM on May 20, 2002

I'd take Thumbscript over this any day. Fitt's Law and all that.
posted by Kikkoman at 9:33 AM on May 20, 2002

Surely the best way to interface with a mobile phone is to speak into it. Bring on VoiceXML.
posted by crayfish at 9:41 AM on May 20, 2002

I'm already such a fumblefingers that I have trouble dialing numbers on my wife's StarTac. For this, I'd want to carry a pencil stub around so I could press the digits and letters precisely with the eraser end. But I gotta admit, it's friggin' ingenious.
posted by alumshubby at 9:46 AM on May 20, 2002

I think it looks cool. I was just thinking to myself the other day, "there's got to be a better way." While i like the hiptop from Danger, that seems larger than this would be, plus incoporating this into a "standard" looking phone would help all the people who say "we fear the hiptop because it doesn't look like a phone" get into the wireless messaging thing. Now, where's autopilot for cars so that i can safely use this on the road?
posted by schlaager at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2002

properly spelt <giggle><giggle>


In any case, predictive software can't be perfect, so you still end up having to correct for the errors when it guesses wrong, no? (I find it hard to believe you NEVER press more than once per letter, and never have to go back to correct a software error)

Also, it makes you learn the software, rather than the system conforming to you.

I'm amazed at how rarely it guesses wrong or doesn't recognise a word. You sometimes have to press once or twice to get a different guess, but it's not a big hassle. But then it's only texting, you're not writing Crime and Punishment. I wouldn't want to do proper Web browsing with it.
posted by Summer at 9:56 AM on May 20, 2002


I think theRegent is taking the piss of your olde English verb endings. He should be smote for his sins. I mean smitten. Smited. Um.
posted by riviera at 10:01 AM on May 20, 2002


I'm amazed at how rarely it guesses wrong or doesn't recognise a word.

The point is that it does guess wrongly, interrupting your flow to go back and correct. And when you want to start doing proper Web browsing with a palm-phone combo tool that has swiss army knives and leatherman pliers integrated into it, I would think the new keypad is superior to software solutions that exist today.

As it is, I still have trouble dialing 1-800-COLLECT because I have to retrain my brain to figure out on what numbers which alpha characters are.

As for everyone saying Voice - the point of text messaging is that you don't have to talk, thus you can text message in relative secrecy during meetings, opera performances, and noisy construction sites.
posted by rich at 10:11 AM on May 20, 2002

I do believe spelt is a legitimate alternative to spelled. Anyway, I think larger screens and more battery power in low-cost handsets are more of a priority than the keyboard. Oh yes, and some decent applications to use over GPRS.
posted by Summer at 10:22 AM on May 20, 2002

What's wrong with 'spelt'?
In fact, saying 'spelled out' sounds stupid compared to 'spelt out'.

Better than all the 'should of', 'could of', 'would of's I've been reading here lately.
posted by HTuttle at 10:47 AM on May 20, 2002

Predictive typing is irrating on the Samsung phones because it tries to do it when you're inputting names for new numbers. What are the odd it will predict the person's name you're about to type in? About 1 in 10,000?
posted by Mo Nickels at 11:19 AM on May 20, 2002

'spelt'. And my phone recognises it, so it must be right. And yeah, I know that it's a grain as well.

rich: you mean the old 'letters-for-numbers' phone thing still exists? I thought that died out decades ago...
posted by riviera at 11:24 AM on May 20, 2002

the nokia ones are smarter than that, they don't try and guess names. the predictive typing only comes up when you are messaging.

riviera: where did it die out? we have it a lot in the us.
posted by rhyax at 11:51 AM on May 20, 2002

Spelt's in Webster's. A bit archaic, but not nearly as bad as the lose -> loose thing that seems to be prevalent these days.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:23 PM on May 20, 2002

Or the you're -> your thing.
posted by kindall at 1:49 PM on May 20, 2002

More pointedly, Americans preferring spelled, the British, spelt (a dictionary of usage). I think the only objection anyone could have is that to many Americans it sounds like putting on airs -- like pronouncing vayss vahzz -- but of course to Brits (and probably certain American demographics) it isn't at all.

Perhaps British usage - American usage can become the new Israel-Palestine. For a while, at least.
posted by dhartung at 4:34 PM on May 20, 2002

Forget that, the good old Ericsson chatboard is just fine. So long as you have an ericsson that is. Mainly due to the horrendouse lag when SMSing normally..
posted by Mossy at 4:43 PM on May 20, 2002

I'm not going to touch US/UK usage with a shitty stick. I have enough trouble '-ise'-ing '-izes' to suit the style guide. But irregular verbs are there to sort out the furriners, no matter what your language.

rhyax: I remember in the mid-late-70s that most British phones had the old 'ABC' thing on the dial, but no-one ever did the 'my phone number is a word' thing anyway.
posted by riviera at 5:56 PM on May 20, 2002

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