Ridiculous "study" says iPhone's keyboard is inefficient

A consulting firm finds that people aren't good at typing on the iPhone in their first minute of use.

Published August 17, 2007 5:33PM (EDT)

I'd welcome any study that actually digs into the productivity differences between the iPhone's on-screen keypad and button-based input devices found on traditional smart phones. But the study that's making headlines now -- conducted by the consulting firm User Centric, and purporting to show that the iPhone keypad causes a lot of errors -- isn't one of them. And the fact that company execs are touting the ridiculous experiment ought to serve as a warning to anyone who considers hiring them.

Here's how the firm proved that "conventional mobile phone users" see a "drop in efficiency" when using the iPhone. They gathered 20 text-messaging fiends -- as Gadget Lab points out, this was clearly a large sample size -- and gave each of them a new Apple phone.

"None of the participants had used an iPhone prior to the study," User Centric says in its press release. Naturally, then, they'd need time to get used to the device. User Centric thought so too -- so it gave them one minute to familiarize themselves with the phone.

One minute! Boy, they were probably experts then, huh?

No, oddly. After a whole minute of learning to use the iPhone, subjects in the study proved slow at entering text. They said they "felt that their fingertips were too large for the iPhone's touch keyboard," and that "they would have preferred the feel of an actual key to the iPhone's touch keypad."

A bunch of people also asked if they could use a stylus with the phone (answer: no, but if you spend more than a minute with it the beauty is you don't need one), and they didn't immediately understand the iPhone's predictive text features.

User Centric says the study is a "good representation of what iPhone text messaging is like for a customer who has just bought an iPhone and is using it for the first time." I guess, but why is it at all important what people think of the iPhone in their first minute of use -- as opposed to the first week, say?

People suck at Wii Tennis in the first minute they play it, too. I used to think it was because the device is completely different from anything else before. But maybe we should call the Wii inefficient, too.

By Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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