Interesting post from Fast Company about whether the iPad will be another nail in the coffin for virtual keyboards, and lays out several alternatives:
1. Swype, which for my Droid has been a lifesaver. In case you haven’t seen it, the makers of T9 have combined predictive algorithms and on-screen finger dragging to markedly speed up text entry in a reasonably intuitive way. I continue to use it despite the clunky Android beta, which requires me to Force Stop the application every time I turn on the device. Still worth it, though, and beats the heck out of the Droid’s awful slide-out keyboard.
2. ThickButtons, again on Android. I have to admit I haven’t tried this out yet, but demo videos make me dizzy the way the keyboard morphs every time you touch it.
3. Phonetic typing system. In my view, this has Epic Fail written all over it. There is a good reason QWERTY continues to exist, and no amount of ergonomic rationalization will ever get users to adopt something completely foreign and unfamiliar. Typing in phonemes? Even speech scientists would tell you to go pound salt!
4. Other. The author hopes that someday people can ‘type’ with their eyeballs, and perhaps there is an optimal layout that is more visually organized. Maybe, but just for kicks try this little experiment – imagine you are typing out a sentence by rapidly glancing key-by-key on your physical keyboard. If you don’t have eye strain or a little dizziness after a sentence or two, bravo. As for me, I wish I hadn’t just eaten.
The other obvious alternative is voice, and both Dragon and Google/Android work reasonably well in quiet environments (and of course Yap for more typical noisy ones). Speech is not a universal solution of course, but between this and something like Swype, beats tapping on glass by a country mile –
And yes, I finally got my iPad today. Haven’t unboxed it yet, but all in good time.