I struggle a bit with recommending adding or configuring a keyboard on any device. It is not really difficult for anyone that uses modern smartphones, tablets and other devices but it is an additional item you would need to pay attention to. I observe my friends and family closely and how they use their devices. These are intelligent people who, often times, are just not interested in figuring out some technology. I have concluded that people just prefer doing other things with their time.
They may want to read or cook or exercise or play. So even though I know it would take someone 10-15 mins to set up, okay maybe 30 if you add research, it is unpleasant enough that they don’t want to even think about it. So I get it, and this is why iOS is still the king at least for people who are economically advantaged.
Android narrows the gap a bit by continuing to improve their keyboard and it is now what I would consider usable. It lets you swipe a word and auto-correct is pretty good. It will improve as you use it over time. At the moment I still prefer Swiftkey. It learns the words I use most by parsing my old emails and the screen layout is more flexible and generally easier to get access to the keys. So what makes a good keyboard. I’ll propose this list.
- Key Layout – keys that interfere with each other are not next to each other. Example, delete and backspace should be away from any frequently used key.
- Key Recognition – when you go to a key that key is selected. Sounds obvious but if it does not work well typing becomes a frustrating experience.
- Word Recognition – the keyboard knows the words you use
- Cloud Profiles – As you move across devices all your keyboard configuration and preference easily carry with you. An analogy I’ll have you recall, think about contacts, remember the days of changing phones when a man in a backroom would do some magic to put your old contacts on your new phone?
- Input Method – this one really needs to address an individuals preference. If you really want to hunt and peck at letters then this is what the keyboard needs to be good at. If you want to swipe letters then it should be good at that.
- Auto Correct – there’s bad auto correct and good auto correct. It goes beyond the words proposed and includes how it interferes with your typing and visibility of the options. Can you see it easily and then correct it a lot more easily than just typing out the word?
- Popup and Visibility – how does the keyboard intrude on your screen? Can you still get to the fields your interested in, do you have to keep popping it down then back up again just to see the screens reference information. Does it do well in both landscape and portrait mode.
- Holding State – when you move around fields and previous text does it remember options and allow easy changes without starting over.
I’ll say that this is not a full list but it hits a lot of the areas that makes a keyboard useful or at least not irritating. If you use an iOS and you are irritated by the keyboard then you may benefit from an Android phone. If you have an Android phone and are constantly struggling with you keyboard then you either need a different one or you need to do some configuring.