The iPhone: Lots to Love, but Flaws Too

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Software Keyboard and Predictive Text Entry

When I got a brief hands-on look at the iPhone prototype at MacWorld in January, the software keyboard was its most disappointing feature. It repeatedly got my input efforts wrong, and during my brief session the predictive text entry feature wasn't able to compensate.

Seven months later, and with more time to practice, I found the keyboard and predictive text entry improved (or at least better than I remembered). It's still no match for the type of good hardware keyboard you get on a BlackBerry or Treo, but it's not unbearable to use, and certainly beats any standard phone keypad. (Now if only Apple had bundled the big instant messaging services.)

Predictive Text: One Word at a Time?

The predictive text entry works differently than it does on a BlackBerry, where you see a list of words that might be the one you're trying to type. The iPhone shows one option at a time, which changes as you enter different characters.

Sometimes the software was amazingly good at figuring out my intentions, even with a couple of mistyped characters: For example, it correctly ascertained that I was trying to type the word "predictive" even though a couple of letters came up wrong as I entered them. Other times, it just couldn't figure out what I wanted (when I tried to type the word "company," it proposed "Compaq"). If you do see the word you want, just hit the space key and the iPhone will use it and move on.

When I first started typing on the iPhone, I thought there was no good way to move the cursor around. I was wrong: With the software keyboard active, pressing down on the text entry area produces a bubble-like circle that magnifies the text around the cursor; moving it with your fingertip repositions the cursor precisely where you want it. It's a very cool feature.

-- Yardena Arar

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