Typing Speed Test: iPhone vs iPad vs Keyboard
I'm a sophomore college student, and I haven't used a laptop in about a year and half. Crazy right?
I haven't written about this yet, but a few weeks before starting my freshman year of college I decided to replace my aging laptop (which only lasted 30 minutes on a full charge) not with a brand new $1,000+ laptop that would last 4-5 hours, but a $500 iPad 2 that lasted more than 10. I needed something I could take notes during class with, and the iPad turned out to be the perfect tool for that. Someday I'll delve into the nitty gritty of how the iPad has been helping me get through college - right now I want to discuss one of the biggest misconceptions about typing on a large, non-tactile 10" display: that it's crappy and slow. For some people it isn't, and I'm one of those people.
On November 17th, 2011 a friend of mine suspected that, for most people, typing on the iPad wasn't significantly slower than typing on a physical keyboard. Up until that point I had been carrying a bluetooth Apple keyboard with me to each of my classes because, like many people, I figured that typing on the screen would be too darn slow. I was skeptical, so to prove him wrong I did a spur-of-the-moment test. Turns out, I was the one who had it all wrong. That's always a cool result.
To test my typing speed on the iPhone, iPad screen and keyboard I used the TapTyping app by Flairify. It's more of a tutoring thing, but it has a speed test function that's pretty decent. Each test has 3, 2-3 sentence chunks of text you need to quickly type with as few errors as possible (no auto-correct, keep in mind). I intentionally didn't do multiple trials for each input method: I didn't want familiarity with any one pre-canned sentence to skew my result. This was about periodically looking away from the keyboard to read (like I do in class) and typing things down, often at the same time. Seems like a hard thing to do without physical keys to align your fingers with, doesn't it? It is - only future tech can fix this.
I took the test on my iPhone while seated, with my arms resting on my knees. I typed on the iPad's screen with it in "typing mode" on a desk, and I typed on a bluetooth keyboard with the iPad in "standing mode" in front of me on the same desk. The results?
iPhone: 57 wpm
iPad: 60 wpm
Keyboard: 71 wpm
At the time, I was only 11 wpm (words per minute) slower on the iPad's screen than with the keyboard. According to Wikipedia's page on WPM:
In one study of average computer users, the average rate for transcription was 33 words per minute, and 19 words per minute for composition. In the same study, when the group was divided into "fast", "moderate" and "slow" groups, the average speeds were 40 wpm, 35 wpm, and 23 wpm respectively.
An average professional typist types usually in speeds of 50 to 80 wpm, while some positions can require 80 to 95 (usually the minimum required for dispatch positions and other time-sensitive typing jobs), and some advanced typists work at speeds above 120 wpm.
I decided my typing speed on an iPad wasn't bad at all, and since then my bluetooth keyboard hasn't left my dorm room. As I learned, this was actually a good thing - figuring out how to put a keyboard and an iPad on one of those small flip-down desks in lecture halls was always a problem.
Update: 2012 Results
Last night someone asked me how I was able to take extensive class notes on my iPad without falling behind, telling me that my lack of a laptop was, "like something out of an Apple commercial."
That reminded me of the test I took last year, and I decided to do the exact same thing again. This is how I fared this time:
iPhone: 51 wpm
iPad: 75 wpm
Keyboard: 82 wpm
Remarkably, my iPad speed has improved by 15 wpm after two semester's worth of using it for notes. My keyboard speed also improved by 11 wpm (always nice), but unfortunately my iPhone speed went down by 6 wpm. I didn't want to cheat and re-do my iPhone test for the sake of honesty, but I suspect my slowdown was due to the fact that I'm not quite used to the iPhone 5's larger size quite yet. If I re-took this test a month from now I think I'll be back up to speed.
Update 4/29/2013: Yup, my speed on the iPhone 5 is now 63 wpm using the same app and methodology.
Obviously I'm just one data point, but after a year of using the iPad's on-screen keyboard I'm pretty shocked to see that I can now type faster on my iPad than I could on a keyboard just a year ago. I completely understand why many people (like those with longer nails or many adults older than me) don't think they can (or just plain can't) type as fast on an iPad as they can with a physical keyboard, but after experiencing this improvement first-hand I'd say the physical keyboard as we know it may not be quite as necessary in the future as it is today.
I'm not confident that I'll be able to reach 100+ wpm given the touch technology we have today, but there's a good chance that I could with the Surface's Touch Cover or maybe even a tactile touch screen. We'll see, but for now I'd encourage you to test out your own touchscreen typing speed - you might not be as slow as you think.