Apple touts iPhone keyboard as first reviews hit

Apple releases video demonstration of the iPhone's touch-screen keyboard

Coincidence or not, Apple Wednesday released a video demonstration of the iPhone's touch-screen keyboard hours after the first reviews criticized some aspects of the device's screen-tapping.

According to Apple's video, "other mobile handsets have tiny fixed physical keys, but the iPhone is much more elegant" in its approach to typing. The demo also touted the on-screen keyboard's adaptability -- when typing a Web address into Safari, for instance, the keyboard drops the space bar and adds characters such as the backslash -- and its error correction, which is based on real-time spell checking.

"In less than a week, you'll likely be typing faster on the iPhone than you have on any other small keyboard," bragged the video. The model, however, recommended that users begin with one-fingered typing before graduating to the two-thumb tactic used by owners of other smart devices, such as the BlackBerry.

On Tuesday a quartet of reviewers writing for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today and Newsweek -- the only publications given iPhone evaluation units prior to Friday's launch -- offered their takes on the keyboard and other aspects of Apple's entry into the cell phone market.

-- "Overall, it works. But the error-correction system didn't seem as clever as the one on the BlackBerry." -- Walt Mossberg, The Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

-- "Then there's the small matter of typing. Tapping the skinny little virtual keys on the screen is frustrating, especially at first." -- David Pogue, The New York Times (free registration required).

-- "Finger-tapping takes getting used to. Best advice: Start typing with one finger before graduating to two thumbs." -- Edward C. Baig, USA Today.

-- "The people at Apple rhapsodize about the intelligent keyboard. Steve Jobs boasted that he's pretty good at two-thumb typing, and several others at Apple claim that they are just as proficient as a BlackBerry power user. So far, I'm nowhere close. It took me a couple of days to get used to hitting the right keys using a single finger." -- Steven Levy, Newsweek

Several of the reviewers, however, agreed with the Apple demo's boast that users should just "type away and trust the intelligence of the keyboard" without worrying about how it feels or mistakes made.

"I've had the best results by blasting through despite my mistakes," agreed Levy.

"Once you stop stressing about each individual letter and just plow ahead, speed and accuracy pick up considerably," said Pogue.

The iPhone will be available in the US at Apple and AT&T retail outlets Friday starting at 6 p.m. local time, and they will also be sold that day from Apple's online store. An Australian launch date is yet to be announced.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld

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