You might think your fingers nimble and spry, but your phone's keyboard plays a huge role in how quickly you can peck out that sext to your "friend." Each mobile operating system has a different keyboard, and Android even lets you replace the default keyboard with a third-party alternative. We're always arguing in the TechHive offices over which mobile keyboard is best; I was the sucker put in charge of settling the feud and running honest tests to determine a winner.
I worked with the TechHive lab to develop a test to gauge how fast and how accurately people can type on each of the major mobile operating systems: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 8. We added two popular third-party Android keyboards--Swype and SwiftKey--to the mix to see whether they had any impact on our typists' performance.
The test was divided into two parts: In the first segment, our subjects used each mobile keyboard to type as much of a prewritten text passage as they could within 60 seconds. In the second part, we asked the subjects to type a description of their favorite foods or pastimes, in order to simulate a real-world typing situation.
We persuaded 13 people to take the typing test. The TechHive Lab then collected and processed the results. A summary of our findings appears in the nifty-looking charts below. Each keyboard was ranked based on the test subjects' average typing speed (in words per minute) and on how many errors the test subjects made while using a particular keyboard.
Testing for speed
If you value speed when typing on a phone, the iOS keyboard should tickle your fancy. Delivering an average typing speed of 36.5 wpm, the iOS keyboard narrowly outperformed its Android and Windows Phone rivals to finish on top. The race was close, and a scant 5.2 words were all that separated first-place iOS from last-place Windows Phone 8--not a significant enough difference to definitively name iOS the fastest on-screen keyboard ever.
Testing for accuracy
But speed is only one factor to consider in assessing a keyboard. A good software keyboard also needs to be able to catch your mistakes and help you avoid sounding as though you've been huffing paint whenever you type something out. Each of the five keyboards we tested handled errors differently, though the stock Android keyboard proved to be the worst at figuring out that you wanted to type hello as opposed to goat.
The Windows Phone 8 keyboard fared somewhat better than the stock Android keyboard on this portion of the test, but it was outclassed by both Swype and SwiftKey. And as much as people like to complain about iOS's aggressive autocorrect, it seemed to help reduce the number of errors our testers made as they hammered away on the iPhone's small screen.
Overall iOS looks like the way to go if you want to type rapidly without much fear of sounding like a total twit. The Windows Phone and stock Android keyboards are slower and offer a much less effective form of autocorrect, but chances are you'd quickly learn their quirks if you used them for a lengthy period of time. Similarly, Swype and SwiftKey both benefit from frequent use, as their advanced predictive text capabilities can predict entire sentences based on things you've typed previously.
All testing aside, I recommend that you use the operating system or keyboard you like the most--but never challenge an iPhone owner to a typing race.