Whereas many of the products we use on a daily basis have been continually redesigned to keep up with the times, the common keyboard – a tool that billions of people use on their smartphones and computers, for hours each day – has for some reason been largely ignored. So why are most people still using the legacy QWERTY layout on their keyboard apps?
Patented in 1878, the classic QWERTY layout was designed for mechanical typewriters. One popular (though not entirely confirmed) theory surrounding the layout is that the letters were arranged in this pattern to reduce the likelihood of two adjacent keys from firing in quick succession which was the source of jams and would therefore slow down the typist.
Since the world went digital, this once sound reasoning for the QWERTY arrangement no longer had any practical basis. The QWERTY layout has pervaded for little reason other than habit. People were so used to it, that a kind of muscle memory inherent in our hands meant we were loathe to switch to any alternative arrangement – even though such alternatives could actually be better for faster and more accurate typing - once you adapted to them.
There were – and still are – several quirky alternative keyboards for computers. Check out the Maltron Single-Handed Keyboard, or the rather bizarre Safetype keyboard (which looks like you could fly a spaceship with it).
However, such keyboard alternatives tend to remain the domain of hardcore programmers, or niche users, and have not come anywhere close to mainstream adoption. (Indeed – the Abkey keyboard mentioned in PC World's Weirdest Keyboards article no longer seems to be in business at all).
When SMS functionality appeared on early mobile phones, typing got annoying. Few would deny that trying to type long messages on a miniscule ‘feature phone’ back in the late ‘90s and early '00s was fun – hence the era of TXTSPEEK was born as a way to shorten the characters needed, and many of those abbreviations (C U l8r m8!) live on in today’s digital comms lexicon.
The slightly larger surface of smartphones and the emergence of predictive text and autocorrect provided a slightly improved typing experience, but again for some reason most of the world stuck with the legacy QWERTY – even though there were clearly better layouts possible especially considering that most people were now typing with just one or two fingers or thumbs rather than using the full 10 digits.
So – this all begs the question – why are we still using the legacy QWERTY keyboard layout on our smartphone keyboards? All the incumbent smartphone keyboard apps: Gboard, SwiftKey and Apple Keyboard, utilise a design that was meant for a completely different product – the mechanical typewriter.
To be fair – there have been some new and quirky keyboard app inventions: emoji keyboards, the paste keyboard and a handful of other keyboards for those wanting a Gboard or Apple keyboard alternative.
But why has no one redesigned the smartphone keyboard for the way that smart phones are actually used today – primarily two (or even single) digit typing – on a much smaller interface?
Enter Typewise. We took a look at this somewhat puzzling situation and decided it was high time to redesign the interface and functionality of the now most-used electronic device in the world. Our thinking? If we can save people time on typing – that equates to days, even weeks, saved in time each year. I.e. if we optimise the smartphone keyboard for the actual smartphone, we can massively boost productivity.
The result is our patented hexagonal layout that we’ve supercharged with our custom-built AI autocorrect, and protected by baking 100% privacy into the keyboard.
We went through many phases of testing to get to this arrangement (and the optimisation is ongoing) but we can already confirm that – once you get acclimatised to the novel layout and gestures – using our keyboard as an alternative to Gboard, SwiftKey or Apple keyboard, leads to fewer typos and 33% faster typing overall.
Which isn’t particularly surprising when all the incumbent smartphone keyboard apps are still using keyboard designs that are 150 years old.
Not everyone will immediately get on with Typewise’s re-invention of the smartphone keyboard. You’ll need to give it more than five minutes; it does take some time to get accustomed to our ‘QARG’ (rather than QWERTY) layout. And we’ve even kept the QWERTY layout as an option if you really can’t face tearing yourself away from it.
But taking a little time to learn something better, pays off. Just ask the 1 million plus people who have already downloaded Typewise keyboard app and are enjoying faster, more accurate (not to mention 100% private) typing.
We will continue to innovate and improve both our layout, and our autocorrect AI, and we believe that our novel hexagon keys and superior AI autocorrect will become the default smartphone keyboard in the coming years.
If you'd like to try something different (and better!) as an alternative to Gboard, SwiftKey or your Apple keyboard - you can try Typewise smartphone keyboard app for free here: download Typewise for iPhone or download Typewise for Android.