Tablets: How Would You Solve the Input Problem?by Anand Lal Shimpi on March 29, 2011 2:22 PM EST
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- iPad 2
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In our iPad 2 review I mentioned that despite really liking the device, I never really could integrate the original iPad into my daily life in a meaningful way. I always ended up traveling with the iPad and a notebook or while around town I just kept a smartphone on me. That limited my iPad use to pretty much lounging around at the house, and even then I found myself turning to the laptop more often than not.
With the Xoom and iPad 2 I've been giving the tablet usage model another try. I've kept my usage mostly consumption focused. Browsing the web and reading emails. I really do prefer using a tablet for both of these things. I do wish the iPad 2 was faster when selecting lots of emails but the improvement over the original iPad is still considerable.
My holdup is this: while I love reading on the iPad 2, I have troubles contributing using it. Writing lengthy email responses or even posting comments on AT is just slower on the iPad than on a notebook. The solution can't be to just walk over to a laptop when I want to respond and just use the iPad when I'm reading - that seems horrible inefficient.
I could use a Bluetooth keyboard but that's also rather clunky. I feel like there has to be a better solution going forward, particularly as the tablet market grows. Is it voice? Or some sort of an integrated kickstand with more flexibility than what you get with the smart cover?
I feel like smartphones get a pass because it's easy to type on them regardless of where you're sitting. Tablets on the other hand need to be propped up against something and as a result are harder to type on in certain situations. They work fine on a desk but if I'm at a desk I'd rather use a notebook. What about when laying back on a couch?
I'm curious what you all think about this. Am I alone in finding tablet ergonomics a barrier? If not, what do you believe is the best solution for tablets going forward. I want to read and respond on a tablet as quickly as I can on a notebook. What needs to be built? Post your comments here and I'm sure we can get many of the tablet manufacturers to pay attention. I don't think they have stumbled across the best solution for this problem either, so what you say here might go a long way in making tablets better for everyone.
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Numenorean - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - linkI have found that swype texting on my Droid is very helpful at solving the input problem, at least somewhat. Although for longer emails it can become tiresome. Ideally one of those projected keyboards that's actually fast and accurate would be nice. But then there is no tactile feedback. Integrating a full slide-out laptop keyboard would be great, but then it takes quite a bit of space to do that.
ImSpartacus - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - linkThat was the first thing I thought.
Swype is amazing because you can type with one hand just as fast as with two. It's wonderful for phones.
I'm not sure how well that could translate to tablets, but it works well for phones.
designerfx - Thursday, March 31, 2011 - linkThe problem with swype is that the size doesnt' translate well to larger devices.
Swype works great for cellphones because cellphones are small. Contrary to how a tablet works, having a cellphone sized swype on a tablet actually would be better than gigantic keys.
However, this is a small focus issue of a much larger issue, which is:
what other input problems are there with tablets?
Answer: there are many. Inputs are not the biggest problem, it's more lack of peripheral capability on the ipad 2.
kmmatney - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - linkThe basic problem (as Anand pointed out) is that its easy to do swype on a phone, since you can easily hold it in one hand, and type/swype with the other. I don't think its so easy to hold the iPad in one hand while typing or swyping with the other - its too bulky.
TheCheesePlease - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - linkLISTEN UP. Here is the BEST answer to this problem:
1. DRAGON NATURALLY SPEAKING PORTED OVER TO ANDROID. Voice recognition HAS gotten to a point where the keyboard is not totally necessary. But relying on data and google's voice software is worthless.(the same goes for maps, etc.) This software can benefit from various gestures and touches. For example, you tap a word to bring up other potential results, three fingers deletes the last phrase.
2. The E71, in all experts opinions, has the highest ceiling for your potential typing speed to rise. The e71s keyboard should be split down the middle, made out of clear plastic, and placed on the right and left sides of a lightweight tablet ON TOP OF THE SCREEN. This would have to be done so that it would be ergonomic, totally see-through, and lightweight.
3. Form factor is one of the biggest things to consider. I think the HTC shift had the right idea.
kasplat - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - linkI'll second the voice recognition idea as long as the UI has built-in support for it with navigation, review, and correction. Certainly it has to be faster than hitting the backspace key all the time like I do if I try and do more than hen peck on an iPad.
I'm also pushing for a size decrease. I would rather have a Kindle 3 size device with a higher-res anti-glare display that I can comfortably hold with one hand or two. Maybe then, the dual thumb interface and typing ideas will make more sense too.
Personally, I'm not sold on the current size iPad tablet making me want to use it over something like a MacBook Air, especially a MacBook Air 11.
Murloc - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - linkVoice recognition is probably the best idea if they keep tablets so big.
But still it doesn't solve practical problems.
You're watching TV with your family. You're using the ipad to spam anandtech during adverts or boring scenes. You use voice recognition => Your family has to hear you.
Azethoth - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - linkI agree about voice as well. It seems like the only way forward while keeping physical keyboards the hell away from the tablets. If I wanted a physical keyboard I would have bought a notebook. I have doubts about this though. Starbucks is not quiet, accuracy will suffer.
Other than that I think some more UI evolution would help as well. Instead of some lame 1/2 screen keyboard, it would be better to overlay something glowing but transparent so you can type on the full tablet, which is actually fairly keyboard sized at 10".
Or maybe for forms especially the actual page/app ui needs to be abandoned during typing: Keyboard takes up entire screen with only an input field and its label visible. No stupid page switching for numbers and common symbols.
Input fields need to get a lot smarter as well. Most email lines get you the "@" on the basic keyboard page. .com would be a nice addition as well as "+" and other permissible email symbols.
Especially in iOS the web browser needs to be fixed so it is usable. Right now it is only tolerable if some app sends you there for something minor like buying or a help page. Actually typing in a web address? No Thanks, I can contain myself till I get home to my desktop PC.
Finally, am I doing something wrong or is cursor handling just completely broken? Double click on a word works fine but I am damned if I can move the cursor around to a particular location with any kind of accuracy, effectiveness, and sometimes just not at all. For me this is the biggest obstacle to typing on the iPad. It is simply not worth trying unless you can make no mistakes. Mistakes mean you spend 5 seconds trying to place the cursor for an effective backspace and maybe succeed, maybe you have to give up and delete multiple words. Or you have to be retarded, double click a word then move the selection handles down to where you want. Ugh.
therealnickdanger - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - linkWhat about IR pupil detection? Screen-side IR blaster and camera (with filter) and you're on your way. No talking, no touching, just pure input at the speed of sight. Obviously, it would take time and effort to learn... but Swype took a while for me to get used to (but I still don't like it).
Take prototypes like this and improve them:
dman - Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - linkIt's a kludge at best, that works for small edits but anything involving navigating around a page is a horrible effort. As you mentioned, unless you are doing something short and sweet and/or you type perfectly, you'll waste a lot of time trying to get the right letter/word/other edit done.
Tablets will need to improve upon the touch sensitivity, perhaps including pens again (for certain tasks). Being able to use the tablet as a 'drawing tablet' would make it more attractive than a notebook. Otherwise I stil look at them as consumption devices.