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The iPad Split Keyboard Raises the Bar for Onscreen Keyboards

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When iOS 5 arrives this fall, the new split keyboard is one of the features that users will notice. After spending a week using the new split keyboard on the iPad 2, and comparing it to the split keyboard from SwiftKey on Android 3.0, I am a firm believer in doing it first doesn’t always mean doing it best.

iPad split keyboard in iOS 5

The new iPad split keyboard arrives this fall with iOS 5.

We highlighted the versatile new keyboard in our post 5 things iPad users will love about iOS 5 and readers were quick to point out that Android tablets have had split keyboards for a while, leading some to ask if I had even touched an Android tablet. The answer is yes, I have, but the new iOS 5 split keyboard offers much more usability than those I have used on Android tablets.

iPad split keyboard in portrait

The iPad split keyboard in iOS 5 can be moved to wherever you need it.

First, the iPad split keyboard works in landscape and portrait modes. While some of the Android tablets are thinner than the, iPad there are times when a portrait mode keyboard would be beneficial.

The real reason Google needs to step up the game with Android 3.2 is that Apple is allowing users to put the keyboard wherever they want.

If the most comfortable position for typing is in the middle of a portrait oriented iPad, Apple will let you do that. If you prefer your keyboard at the top of the screen, you can do that too. Surprisingly, Apple is giving iPad users a lot of choice when it comes to the keyboard, and that translates into. Better user experience.

Take for example this post, written in Pages. With a traditional, stuck to the bottom keyboard, half the display is covered. With a switch to the split keyboard, I can float it above the previously written words to see more of the page and focus on what I am currently working on without the need for as much scrolling. This may seem minor, but after you use the new split keyboard, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The ability to move the keyboard lets me type longer on the iPad and faster than I would be able to on the docked keyboard, unless I had a case and a flat solid surface. While there are numerous iPad cases designed to deliver a typing angle, Android tablets still focus on the in hand typing experience, which suffers with a permanently docked keyboard.

Call me a fanboy, but  the truth is I hope Google appropriates the split keyboard in the same way Apple knocked off Android notifications.

iPad keyboard docked

The normal iPad keyboard covers half the screen.

Josh Smith is Editor of GottaBeMobile and Notebooks.com. He's always looking for ways to help you get the most of your gear and loves to talk about tech on radio and TV. Josh uses an iOS and Android devices as well as Mac and Windows Computers. Josh Smith on Google+ Email: [email protected]

15 Comments

  1. Sumocat

    06/21/2011 at 12:56 pm

    Good to see my relentless mocking of the standard iPad on-screen keyboard has finally paid off. You’re welcome.
    http://www.gottabemobile.com/2010/01/27/ipad-keyboard-is-disappointing/
    http://www.gottabemobile.com/2010/04/03/thumb-typing-on-the-ipad-looks-great-if-your-hands-are-huge/

    • Sz

      06/23/2011 at 1:29 pm

      Have you guy’s seen the SNAPKEYS keyboard?

  2. Amitai Rosenberg

    06/21/2011 at 12:58 pm

    Windows 8 also showed a split keyboard, before iOS 5 preview

  3. Anonymous

    06/21/2011 at 4:03 pm

    “Call me a fanboy, but  the truth is I hope Google appropriates the split keyboard in the same way Apple knocked off Android notifications.”

    Apple would sue them. The USPTO probably awarded Apple a patent for the on-screen keyboard.

  4. John Smith

    06/21/2011 at 8:42 pm

    You mean how Android knocked off WebOS notifications.

    • Anonymous

      07/16/2011 at 4:34 pm

      How did Android knock off web os notifications? … Android has had their notification before WebOs 

  5. Jason Dunn

    06/21/2011 at 10:21 pm

    I’m going to have to wait and see – my only experience with a split keyboard was with the Samsung Q1 Ultra, which was a physical split keyboard and completely sucked. It was difficult for me to figure out which letter was on which side of the keyboard – using a regular on-screen keyboard was faster. We’ll see…

  6. GTaylor

    06/22/2011 at 9:55 pm

  7. Anonymous

    07/31/2011 at 10:35 pm

    Are you saying that you feel like the split keyboard coming to iOS 5 is better than what SwiftKey Tablet X offers?

  8. Anonymous

    07/31/2011 at 10:35 pm

    Are you saying that you feel like the split keyboard coming to iOS 5 is better than what SwiftKey Tablet X offers?

  9. Flodas

    09/07/2011 at 2:31 pm

    Still missing numbers on top (hate the key switcharoo thing), multifunctional keys and arrow keys… But it’s a start. 

  10. Dlee31217

    09/15/2011 at 4:01 pm

    Letter “B” is on the wrong side.  Should be on the left. 

  11. Fghhgh

    12/04/2011 at 11:33 pm

    Yeah need arrow key

  12. drkalo

    01/24/2012 at 1:27 pm

    Josh, are you kidding?!?! In terms of customisation – Android market offers plenty of split keyboards SwiftKey, Thumb keyboard, Perfect keyboard, Multilingual keyboard etc. They support customizing individual keys, prediction in lots of languages, multitouch shortcut, gestures and almost whatever you can think of. You have literary only “touched” an android device but unfortunately never played with it. Enjoy your iPAD and support the ones that are going to charge you for the air that you breathe one day because they’ll acqure a patent for inventing it!

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