Study Reveals iPhone Text Input Woes

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Rather than relying on the praise and criticism that floats around on Internet message boards and crops up in reviews, the usability consultancy User Centric wanted to take a scientific approach to sizing up the iPhone’s new interface with a longitudinal study.

"While multi-touch technology has been around for over a decade, the unique form factor of the iPhone is very compelling as it opens the door to a whole new set of user experiences,” said Gavin Lew, Managing Director of User Centric. “The first few days after launch spawned reviews of the iPhone, but we wanted to conduct the first independent and objective study with actual iPhone users to separate analyst opinion from the actual everyday user,"

After rounding up users from the iPhone lines that formed on launch day and compensating them for the time, the company performed 60-minute usability sessions with every consumer, testing the full range of the iPhone’s capabilities. They released the first findings from their study on Thursday.

While most functions performed as expected, text entry was one notable exception. According to User Centric, participants uniformly found text entry for SMS and e-mail to be difficult. The phone’s vertical keyboard frustrated them, and the small size of the screen made editing the middle of a word or sentence hard for them.

However, it wasn’t all bad news for text input. The study found some user dissatisfaction, but it also found that users still typed faster on the soft-touch keyboard than on the old multi-tap keyboards (those with more than one letter for each key).

Other common criticisms centered on Google Maps, which required too much dexterity for some people to control, and web navigation, which spawned complaints about the slow EDGE network as well as the lack of Flash and Java.

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