Typing Faster on an iPhone

I just came back from a trip to Egypt, but while I was staying in the hotel I noticed how infuriating it is to jot down notes on my iPhone with a single index finger. (I always try to take as little luggage as possible so I didn’t have a laptop or even a physical journal with me.)

Typing on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard is definitely faster than on a numeric pad where you have to press a button multiple times to get the desired letter. But the problem with single-finger typing on the iPhone is the fact that you have to move your finger strenuously from one side of the virtual keyboard to the other. Not only does this waste time, it also makes you frustrated because you’re limited to a single finger.


We didn’t have this problem with older phones. With my first cell phone (Nokia 5110) I always used two thumbs to compose messages. It was slow but more comfortable because I could emply both hands simultaneously. If you try this on your iPhone, however, you’ll notice that the virtual keyboard is too small for using your thumbs.

This is why you should hold your iPhone horizontally.

As you know, the horizontal mode flips the screen sideways and brings up a significantly larger model of the virtual keyboard.

When you hold your iPhone horizontally, you are holding it like a video game controller. This allows you to control the left part of the virtual keyboard with your left thumb, and the right side with your right thumb, respectively. Unlike when holding your phone in the vertical position, you no longer have to alternate between two different parts of the virtual keyboard with a single finger. The work is now divided.

As your iPhone typing skills improve, using your two thumbs cooperatively also allows you to perform key combos where (when appropriate) you bring your two thumbs to one side of the keyboard and hit two or more keys in rapid succession. This should give you a nice speed boost.

Examples

How would you use the above method to type the following words: what, have, of, but, number (which are some of the 100 most commonly used words in the English language).

  • what Bring your thumbs to the left and alternate with your thumbs: left, right, left, right.
  • have Again, you’ll notice that we’re going to be focusing on the left part of the virtual keyboard. Right, left, right, left.
  • of Position your thumbs on both sides, then tap: right, left.
  • but Middle: Left, right, left.
  • number Right, right, right, left, left, left.

First, try typing the words in vertical mode and then try the same while holding your iPhone horizontally. Feel the difference.

If you’re already good at touch-typing, you’ll notice that typing faster and more comfortably on an iPhone is all about focus. When you have a rough picture in your mind about how your thumbs are supposed to maneuver when typing a certain word, you automatically focus on a specific part of the virtual keyboard where you’ll be performing most of the keystrokes. For example, when typing the word through you’re focusing—more or less—on the right side, without really shifting your focus to the left side at all (the leftmost key being r). If you’re familiar with the keyboard layout you’re using, you’ll be doing mad key combos in no time.

So whenever you need to use iPhone’s virtual keyboard to write stuff, make it a habit to flip the device horizontally. I believe the same techniques would also apply to any other smartphone with a touchscreen display. Let your muscle memory handle the typing.