When it comes to writing text on mobile phones what is the best method? This article looks at the options of predictive, qwerty, handwriting recognition and multi-tap. Which ever your preference will dictate which business mobile phone you choose.
T9, which stands for Text on 9 keys, is a patented predictive text technology for mobile phones. It allows words to be entered by a single key press for each letter, as opposed to the multi-tap approach used in the older generation of mobile phones in which several letters are associated with each key, and selecting one letter often requires multiple key presses.
It combines the groups of letters on each phone key with a fast-access dictionary of words. It looks up in the dictionary all words corresponding to the sequence of key presses and orders them by frequency of use.
As it gains familiarity with the words and phrases the user commonly uses, it speeds up the process by offering the most frequently used words first and then lets the user access other choices with one or more presses of a predefined Next key.
The dictionary can be expanded by adding missing words, enabling them to be recognized in the future. After introducing a new word, the next time the user tries to produce that word T9 will add it to the predictive dictionary.
T9 is useful but it can be dangerous as you can accidentally send something that is meaningless or says something else. For example: you might want to send a message to your girlfriend saying “when are you going to leave for home?” This can come out in a different way: “when are you going to leave for good?”
QWERTY is a standard layout for letter keys on text keyboards and thumb boards. Originally created for typewriters, it is currently the layout found on most English-language computer keyboards. It is named for the order of the first six keys on the top row, which happen to form a pronounceable word.
On phones, the keys are usually much smaller and closer together. This means they cannot be used with two full hands like full-size keyboard, but rather are designed to be used with two thumbs while holding the phone. Even traditional touch-typing is not possible on a phone’s small QWERTY keyboard, the familiar layout makes it easier to find the correct letter among a large number of keys.
People tend to choose QWERTY phones because they want an experience that mimics the desktop thereby allowing the user to enter text quickly and easily. An example of a QWERTY “keyboard” phone is the BlackBerry 8310 Curve. Techno snobs tend to call the BlackBerry a “device” rather than a phone because it is used for both voice and data.
If you are keen on keeping up to date with your emails then getting a phone with an email client, push email support and a Qwerty keypad could be a wise buy. Another feature to consider is the Qwerty keypad itself. Some Qwerty keypads have two letters per key, whereas others give you a full set of individual keys. A full set of keys is easier to adapt to if you’re a keyboard veteran, but the two-letters-per-key system can speed up your typing using predictive text.
On-line handwriting recognition involves the automatic conversion of text as it is written on a special PDA, where a sensor picks up the pen-tip movements as well as pen-up/pen-down switching. This kind of data is known as digital ink and can be regarded as a dynamic representation of handwriting.
Handwriting recognition has been available in Windows Mobile smartphones for ages, as an alternative to the on-screen keypad. Handwriting recognition is good, but it requires using two hands. See Sony Ericsson M600i.
Text entry using multi-tap is the system whereby the alphabet is printed under each key (beginning on “2”) in a three-letter. The system is used by repeatedly pressing the same key to cycle through the letters for that key. For example, pressing the “3” key twice would indicate the letter “E”. Pausing for a set period of time will automatically choose the current letter in the cycle, as will pressing a different key.
Multi-tap is more old school but you will find you will tend to make fewer mistakes and it never asks you to spell words. These days most modern cell phones use both multi-tap and predictive text. For example the BlackBerry Pearl (Sure Type) uses both multi-tap and predictive text which when combined with it’s half QUERTY means you can write an entire Email or SMS without having to switch words. It takes a bit of getting used to using the thumbs instead of the fingers.
Getting around the issue of size
One solution to the problem of text has been the touch screen phone. Since the iPhone came on the market the touch screen appears to be the latest trend in the mobile world. This trend is however not new as the touch screen phone has been around since the LG Prada got rid of it’s keyboard. What the iPhone did that the LG did not was to bring the touch screen to the attention of the world. Since emergence of the iPhone there has been many phones trying to surpass it, however, most have been pretenders rather than genuine contenders. However, whilst the touch screen has it’s market the phone fails to be a decent business phone for sending emails.
When it comes to writing a text size is clearly an issue, especially if your are writing more than 200 characters. The best solution appears to be using a combo of screen and keyboard. HTC have tried to resolve the issue of size by using a slide out keyboard (for example: qtek 9100, HTC TyTN, HTC P4350). Whilst the phone is slightly bigger than the standard Nokia/SE device, the touch screen/keyboard combo works very well. Perhaps a future solution will increasingly involve the use of voice recognition.