Pickup Usability Dominates: A Brief History of Mobile Text Entry Research and Adoption

Pickup Usability Dominates: A Brief History of Mobile Text Entry Research and Adoption

Mark David Dunlop (University of Strathclyde, UK) and Michelle Montgomery Masters (University of Strathclyde, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-499-8.ch003
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Text entry on mobile devices (e.g. phones and PDAs) has been a research challenge since devices shrank below laptop size: mobile devices are simply too small to have a traditional full-size keyboard. There has been a profusion of research into text entry techniques for smaller keyboards and touch screens: some of which have become mainstream, while others have not lived up to early expectations. As the mobile phone industry moves to mainstream touch screen interaction we will review the range of input techniques for mobiles, together with evaluations that have taken place to assess their validity: from theoretical modelling through to formal usability experiments. We also report initial results on iPhone text entry speed.
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The simplest and most common form of text entry on small devices, as with large devices, is a keyboard. Several small keyboard layouts have been researched that try to balance small size against usability and text entry speed. Keyboards can be categorized as unambiguous, where one key-press unambiguously relates to one character, or ambiguous, where each key is related to many letters (e.g. the standard 12-key phone pad layout where, say, 2 is mapped to ABC). Ambiguous keyboards rely on a disambiguation method, which can be manually driven by the user or semi-automatic with software support and user correction. This section looks first at unambiguous mobile keyboard designs, then at ambiguous designs and, finally, discusses approaches to disambiguation for ambiguous keyboards.

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