'Curved' on-screen thumb keyboard could be coming to Windows Phone 8

'Curved' on-screen thumb keyboard could be coming to Windows Phone 8

Summary: A leaked Microsoft Research photograph shows an HTC Trophy running an innovative new curved, thumb-operated keyboard that could make one-handed typing on a smartphone -- especially those with larger screens -- much easier.

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TOPICS: Microsoft, Mobile OS
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A leaked presentation suggests that Microsoft could be preparing to augment the regular two-handed -- or to be more accurate, two-thumbed -- Windows Phone on-screen software keyboard with one designed specifically to be used single-handedly.

Mobile tech site WMPowerUser claims to have access to the leaked Microsoft Research presentation which contains a photograph of the new keyboard in action. The image shows a curved keyboard with the QWERTY layout but with the characters grouped together in such a way as to allow single-handed use. The keyboard uses predictive text technology similar to that found on mobile phones to work out what words the user is typing.

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According to the report, Microsoft may be getting ready to include this keyboard as part of the Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system. This information fits in with a leak last year where an unwiped whiteboard seemed to inadvertently reveal that Microsoft was working on a "one handed input and next gen soft keyboard".

In the image above, the curved keyboard is shown running on an HTC Trophy smartphone, which gives us hope that this new smart keyboard will be delivered to legacy Windows Phone 7.x devices as part of the Windows Phone 7.8 update.

The keyboard design certainly seems interesting and looks like it could help make smartphones -- especially those with larger screens -- easier to use one-handed.

Image source: WMPowerUser.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile OS

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21 comments
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  • Not Sure

    Note sure if I'd use this style keyboard, but it would be nice to have the option available.
    clcrockett
    • I agree. I hate using one key for 3 or 4 characters

      so as an option it would be worth exploring, but wouldn't want to be forced to use it it I didn't like it.
      William Farrel
  • I'm hoping to see this...

    ... In 7.8 too. Would be a welcome and innovative feature.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
  • Who needs this?

    That's why I got a smart phone - so I DON'T have to touch the same key multiple times to pick out a letter I want to type. How backwards is this?
    tboneJoey
    • You don't have to type the same key multiples times....

      The keyboard can figure out the word you are trying to enter, by pretty smart and accurate algorithms.
      If you ever use a blackberry before you will know what I talking about.
      For example:
      If you type the word "weekly"
      you don't have to type the key with the letter "W" multiples times to got to the "E"...you just keep typing and the right word "magically" shows up.
      Windows Phone 7 works like that.

      Next time think before post.
      josephvba@...
      • Ahhh

        User name not displayed - To me it seems obvious that he hasn't used a Blackberry before. Me neither. So, thanks for the good details.
        SlimSam
        • Errrr...

          This was pretty much a standard feature in all cell phones of the "dumbphone" variety, it's called predictive text input.

          The difference here, assuming it's real, is that this one works with only one hand, on a big touch screen.
          CarlitosLx
          • Umm...

            Hopefully MS will include some of the 'learning' that alternative Android keyboard developers have been using - things like looking at Gmail or text messages to determine your particular vocabulary. I know, sort of invasive, but it does save time on the custom predictive database and it CAN lead to greater accuracy if you actually use real words when you send emails (or SMS).

            One thing I'd like to see included is an OS option to use the proximity sensor (if present) to help figure out if you are holding the phone in a portrait orientation with one hand so that you can set a preference to automatically select the one-handed keyboard.

            So long as all the behaviors are defined by the use, why not? Could be a real boon to people with big fingers, the smaller screen crowd, handicapped users, amputees, folks scurrying through an airport with baggage in tow, texting while walking the dog, etc. Ummm...I see value, lots of incremental value. Good idea.
            justsayyes
      • Bzzzt, wrong.

        When you're trying to type the word "week" you start out by hitting the upper left key "qwe" twice, then pause and then hit it three times, to indicate the letters, as it can't tell "week" from "weak", from Wednesday", until you enter enough characters. iOS will do the same thing, as will Android, the big difference it the fewer keys, which act like a mid 90s style keypad.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
  • I guess it's back to the 90s

    With WP 8. This looks like a gimmick, and nothing more. I thought Microsoft claimed to and to Innovate, not do things that were done, by Nokia 20 years ago...
    Jumpin Jack Flash
    • Gimmick ?

      Can you type in a 4"+ screen size phone with one hand?
      No....or maybe yes if you are a 6' 5" tall with big and hands....
      This keyboard will let you type fast and accurate using only one hand in 4"+ phones.
      josephvba@...
      • Yes it is a Gimmick.

        Nokia had a phone with a physical keyboard similar to this about 15 to 20 years ago. It was a Gimmick then, and it is a Gimmick now.
        Jumpin Jack Flash
        • Gimmick?

          @JJF

          By that you mean the same kind of gimmick as the minuscule touch keyboard that you get on all smartphones that is only usable by people with little girl hands?
          Pastabake
  • WOW! Congrats!

    This is the first article I have read from you in...ever? that was actually well written, stuck almost entirely to the facts and left your strong distaste for all things Microsoft out. How does it feel? Are you still with us?
    ikissfutebol
  • interesting-hope its in 7.8

    Since it's running on a Trophy in the screenshot, i'm hoping we see it in 7.8. I have a Trophy and am not able to upgrade to WP8 since I just did an upgrade 6 months ago. But if it's on 7.8 as an option, I'll try it.
    brentgee
  • 'Curved' on-screen thumb keyboard could be coming to Windows Phone 8

    It is an interesting design and I can see it being useful for the multitaskers. Coffee in one hand and phone in the other, this new keyboard style could work out quite well for them. I've been in a few situations where the one handed typing would be useful because I was holding papers in the other.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • And yet

      people with real smartphones, have managed to type "one handed" without issue. WM is not a real "smartphone" OS, it's more of a "feature phone OS"
      Jumpin Jack Flash
      • Grow up already, JJ...

        If you don't like Microsoft, or anything they put out, don't buy it and don't use it.

        I swear, if Microsoft put out a tablet or smartphone that printed $100 bills, and were legal, you would still be attacking them for copying the U.S. Mint.

        Get a life, and step out of TR/ZDNet for a little while, and, you might realize that, there is a whole world of different things out there for you to discover and explore. Having your life revolve around seeking MS related articles, and then attacking them, is not a worthwhile existence.
        adornoe
  • I might actually give WP8 a try

    The only reason I never grabbed a WP7 was because the lack of a Swype keyboard was a dealbreaker for me. This looks like quite a nice alternative.
    Aerowind
  • Check out Fleksy for iOS

    For some more one-thumn typing on iOS, check out the brand new Fleksy app. You don't even have to look on the screen much! http://fleksy.com
    kostas1284