Thoughts on the G1 keyboard

Thoughts on the G1 keyboard

Summary: I spent the weekend using a T-Mobile G1 as my exclusive phone and wanted to post some of my initial thoughts on the handset and the promising Android operating system from the perspective of a day 1 iPhone user.The keyboard is atrocious (as in Blackberry Storm atrocious).

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TOPICS: Hardware
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I spent the weekend using a T-Mobile G1 as my exclusive phone and wanted to post some of my initial thoughts on the handset and the promising Android operating system from the perspective of a day 1 iPhone user.

http://images.intomobile.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/tmobile-htc-g1-2.jpg

The keyboard is atrocious (as in Blackberry Storm atrocious). The benefit of having a true QWERTY device is supposed to be the inherent typing efficiencies that come from having a hardware keyboard, but I'm not feeling it with the G1. Its keyboard is low and flat with almost zero tactile difference between the high and low points of the keys practically negating the benefit of having a keyboard at all. The keys need to be a little taller with a little more travel to be able to touch type with. Right now it's all hunt and peck for me.

My typing accuracy is horrible on the G1 resulting in hilarious SMS typos and truncated Tweets. Granted I'm still not fully used to the device (and have an iPhone bias) – If I'm going to pay the price of extra thickness I want a really nice hardware keyboard. A keyboard-less HTC G2 is rumored to arrive in mid-May

Also, there's currently no iPhone-like virtual keyboard on the G1 so you have to slide out the keyboard at every text entry field (sms, email, twitter, etc.). Although a virtual keyboard has been spotted (video) in the "Cupcake" development branch, it's not ready for prime time.

When I use the G1 keyboard I realize how fast I've really become at typing on the iPhone's virtual keyboard.

What's your keyboard preference, QWERTY or virtual?

Topic: Hardware

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14 comments
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  • the physical vs. on-screen....

    the physical vs. on-screen keyboard debate is still raging, but I have been personally very surprised at how easy it is to type onscreen (in my case with an iphone). I would be willing to try a physical keyboard again (I may do so with a palm pre), but I will be surprised if I can type as fast as I do on the iphone.
    lostarchitect
    • Trust me, you won't be able to

      [i]I will be surprised if I can type as fast as I do on the iphone[/i]

      You'll make sure that you can't. I've watched videos during the [url=http://roundrobin.smartphoneexperts.com/] Smartphone Round Robin [/url] of the iPhone guy using other smartphones and he is either completely retarded or he is faking stupidity to make the other phones seem worse. Watching him get confused by TouchFlo3D was absolutely hilarious!

      So I agree with you, I would be surprised if you could do anything better on any phone other than an iPhone, mostly because you'll make absolutely sure that you can't. :)
      NonZealot
      • i roll my eyes at you, sir.

        you just keep beating that drum, don't you?

        man, if i switch my phone i will make damn sure i can type as well as possible on it. i'm not the kind of guy who carries around multiple phones. if i switch to a pre, it will be my only phone for a full 2 years. it won't be for the keyboard however, it'll be for the multitasking ability, which i think it's lame that the iphone is missing.
        lostarchitect
      • Question for you NonZealot

        NonZealot, you like to bash almost every Apple related comment. I just
        got on a few weeks ago, but I have noticed that you will search out any
        document which involves Apple or Apple vs. "something else."

        I just don't quite understand the reasoning behind it? Is it mainly
        argument for argument sake?

        As it is my observation, in this message and others, you call down others
        who write honest opinions. However, especially in this message, you are
        surprised that someone thinks they can't type faster on an iPhone. You
        then call into account that the only reasonable explanation for this is the
        following: "I would be surprised if you could do anything better on any
        phone other than an iPhone, mostly because you'll make absolutely sure
        that you can't."

        Well I ask the same question to you. Do Apple products befuddle you to a
        point because they are hard to use or "because you'll make absolutely
        sure that you can't."

        Or, do you point fingers, and make fun of ideas, because in a detailed
        study of the two systems that their would be found strengths and
        weaknesses to both operating systems.

        And that would mean that you would have to concede your implied stance
        that Apple is inferior to every other product out there. Humbling.

        So, if there is ever an article on ZDNet that compares a feature by feature
        REAL WORLD use of the systems (not theoretical), then I will surely like to
        see you respond to that.

        Until then, your puerile, unsupported, and equivocated statements will fall
        mostly to deaf ears.
        Evan13
  • Virtual = versatile

    The QWERTY is stuck at one configuration, and can't be modified to
    enhance its functionality.

    A big minus for QWERTY (besides its bulk) is poor reliability. The physical
    keyboard of a phone, TV remote, etc. is usually the first thing to break.
    And even if it's only one key, it's still a major PITA.

    My vote goes to virtual.
    Userama
    • Best of both worlds

      [i]The QWERTY is stuck at one configuration, and can't be modified to enhance its functionality.[/i]

      The HTC Touch Pro / Fuze has both a fully versatile touch screen (with virtual keyboard) and a physical keyboard. You truly get the best of both worlds. I personally got an HTC Touch Diamond which does not have a physical keyboard because mobility was very important to me (yet another reason why I didn't buy the iPhone, it is simply too big, bulky, and heavy) but if you do a lot of typing, a physical keyboard [b]is[/b] better, even if iPhone apologists swear up and down that it isn't. Put more than a weekend into a physical keyboard and you [b]will[/b] be faster, if you wanted to be.
      NonZealot
      • i like the idea of having both.

        however i think that saying you "will" be faster with a physical keyboard depends on the keyboard. I am faster with the iphone than I was on my old Treo--however the treo was a badly designed keyboard (IMO). With a better design I see no reason why I couldn't be much faster.
        lostarchitect
    • Versatile = unpredictable

      The use of a keyboard is a matter of habit. You learn where the keys are positioned on a QWERTY keyboard, how big they are, and how far you need to move your finger to reach the letter you wish to type.

      You haven't successfully mastered a keyboard until you can type on it without looking at it. The same is true with the remote to your TV. Virtual keyboards tend to make this more difficult as you have no tactile point of reference, apart from the edges of the device.
      Theli
  • I'm very fast on the G1

    I recently did a few speed tests when using the BlackBerry Storm and after trying out the Storm in both landscape and portrait, Palm Treo Pro, iPhone and G1 (http://blogs.zdnet.com/cell-phones/?p=293) I found I was fastest on the G1 and iPhone. I can really fly on the G1 and find it to be a well spaced and decently designed keyboard with dedicated numbers, @, period and dual shift keys. The "chin" does get in the way a bit, but the keyboard really is pretty decent IMHO and I have no desire for a touch screen keyboard on the G1 myself.
    palmsolo (aka Matthew Miller)
  • iPhone predictive keyboard saves my butt...

    My accuracy on the iPhone is appalling, but the software does a
    remarkable job of figuring out what I meant to type. Would I write a
    book with it? Never. But it handles short emails and Tweets like a
    dream.

    Frankly I just want Apple to create a 4x iPhone - twice as wide and tall -
    with killer battery life and lots of screen real estate. Now that's a
    Netbook I could live with...
    bgrh
  • RE: Thoughts on the G1 keyboard

    I have not used the iPhone keyboard enough to know my preference on that. However, I have thoroughly enjoyed the full keyboard on my G1. I have had my G1 since December. I know that the positioning of the keyboard is bit uncomfortable (especially if there is something plugged into it). I have used virtual keyboards on other phones and I would take mine over theirs any day. The only time that I have found it to be a nuisance is when I just want to type a couple letters or a password to a website as opposed to a full message. It is at those times that I would like to have a virtual. Otherwise, I am very content with mine the way it is.
    jblaha
  • Had the same experience w/ the G1

    I feel the same way. I had a G1 for a few months and thought, gee, it has a physical keyboard, I should be able to crank out SMSes much more quickly with less inaccuracies due to the software guessing what I mean. Boy was I wrong.

    Firstly, I had to slide it sideways thanks to the virtual keyboard. I'll admit it! I do toss off a text now and again while in the car. And I found it far more clumsy to try and use both hands than just pulling out the iPhone and using my thumb.

    Secondly, when I was typing, I had the same problem you did. The key height made it hard to feel my way around the keyboard. I typed at a decent speed but I made horrid mistakes which showed up in texts, tweets, etc. And, like you, I did send off truncated tweets.

    In the end, I traded my G1 to a friend due to the keyboard, the app store being in its infancy, the quality of the service (rarely saw 3G) and went back to an iPhone 3G. It's funny how the grass doesn't seem so green in other pastures now. :)
    Balatro
  • RE: Thoughts on the G1 keyboard

    I have the HTC Touch Pro with the slide-out keyboard, and I love it. I find it easier to type on than an iPhone (and I gave the iPhone a pretty good try), but I also like the fact that my entire screen is always visible. I really don't like the fact that a software keyboard takes up screen real estate.
    I agree with NonZealot that your perception of any device is heavily colored by what you want to perceive.
    I have a friend who raved about his iPhone week after week. Then one week he raved about the OS upgrade that meant he no longer had frequent dropped calls. I said "What? Why were you raving so much about a device that was dropping several calls a day? My humble Windows Mobile device hardly ever drops a call."
    So, the lesson for me is that beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder. I think the iPhone is very cool, and I love the screen, but my HTC Touch Pro is faster to use, smaller, and more reliable than my friend's iPhone. And it has turn-by-turn GPS, and a removable battery, and a less expensive cell phone plan through Sprint or Verizon. It doesn't have as many cool games, but you know, I really don't want to spend my life playing games on my cell phone.
    ted@...
  • RE: Thoughts on the G1 keyboard

    I own the iPod Touch and the BlackBerry Curve. While for a touchscreen Apple has done a nice job with the virtual keyboard, for me hands down I can type more accurately, and far quicker on my Curve. I love both of my devices, as they do what they do very well, but as my day-to-day device that is always with me, it's the BlackBerry for me. I can one hand with it if need be as well, which I'm not going to be able to do with my iPod Touch.
    Aragorn_z