Which Is Better, T9, SureType, Or Qwerty? - InformationWeek

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4/9/2008
10:21 AM
Eric Ogren
Eric Ogren
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Which Is Better, T9, SureType, Or Qwerty?

If you use your phone to send SMS, IM, or e-mail messages frequently, surely you've run into all three types of text input. Rita El Khoury over at Symbian-Guru laid out her thoughts about T9. I fall into the qwerty camp, though I was pretty good with SureType. Which do you use, and why?

If you use your phone to send SMS, IM, or e-mail messages frequently, surely you've run into all three types of text input. Rita El Khoury over at Symbian-Guru laid out her thoughts about T9. I fall into the qwerty camp, though I was pretty good with SureType. Which do you use, and why?I believe it all comes down to personal preference, though surely there's something to do with muscle memory, too. When I first began sending SMS and e-mail messages from my phone, I was triple-tapping them, and I hated it. I thought it was the most inefficient method of text input. Eventually I came across a phone that had T9 predictive text installed. This was years ago, so the software wasn't as refined as it is today. I moved on to a qwerty device and haven't looked back since. I used full qwerty devices for so long that I became a speed demon at typing up messages. Recipients of my messages were often surprised at how fast I could respond. (We'll talk about my sore tendons later.)

Then I landed on a SureType device for a while (BlackBerry Pearl). SureType uses a 20-key pad instead of a 12-key pad and places two letters per key rather than three. I was sure I wasn't going to like it, but in the end, I was able to become pretty speedy. I did have some problems with the dictionary, though. With key combinations that could lead to multiple words, I always ended up with the wrong one on the screen, necessitating some fast taps on the delete key to start over. I was, however, mostly satisfied with SureType.

During my recent trip to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, I was using an N95 (partly for the camera, partly to avoid high data-roaming charges on my iPhone). It had been a long time since I'd used T9, so I was basically starting from scratch. There's no doubt that I was faster at T9 than triple-tapping, but I felt the series of key combinations you have to press to perform certain actions makes for just as many taps in the end.

Symbian-Guru's Khoury said, "With T9, I can type seriously fast and I can even do it blindfolded, while driving, in a classroom and looking at the teacher's eyes, you get the idea. The facility of knowing the buttons is great because no matter what device I pick, I know where each of the 12 buttons are. I don't need to be a rocket scientist in order to get going." That's true. The 12-key keypad is the 12-key keypad, and it doesn't change.

She also argues that not all qwerty keyboards are made the same way. Symbol characters are all over the place, the number keys are in different spots, and you have to really re-learn each new keyboard. "The ... issue ... I have with qwerty is that there are too many keys to memorize, yes, I know it's the same layout as the computer keyboards, but it's on a different scale which needs a new learning curve. Talking about scale, qwerty devices are often too large, making it an issue to have to move your thumb around in order to text. I'm not lazy, it's more about speed and efficiency."

With respect to speed, efficiency, and the iPhone ... Honestly, I stink at typing on the iPhone. It's OK for SMS and short e-mail replies, but if I have to type a long e-mail, it's just as fast for me to fire up my laptop (which I have with me nearly all the time). I am just a lot faster on physical qwerty keyboards.

What about you? I would reckon a large number of you are either BlackBerry or Windows Mobile users, which most often come with full qwerty keyboards.

Just for fun, read the comments on T9 versus qwerty at All About Symbian, here. They've got quite a discussion going on over there.

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