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Show of hands: One or two for your touchscreen handheld?



apple-iphone-keyboard-328x350At the Starbucks for my Friday morning solo venti no-whip soy iced caramel macchiato with extra caramel, I noticed, as usual, many in the crowd busy on their iPhones and other touchscreen handhelds. What stuck out this time was that all of them were holding their devices with one hand and controlling them with the other, much like in this photo. Not like I hadn’t seen that before, but seeing this cluster of two-handedness made me wonder, is it the norm to use both hands on touchscreen handhelds?

If using a device in landscape mode, two hands on the device is practically necessary. But again, the people at Starbucks were holding in portrait mode in one hand and controlling with the other. That, to me, seems like a practice that should be deprecated.

I get why it started. My first handheld, an IPAQ Pocket PC, was easily controlled with one hand for media control and voice notes via hard buttons, but anything that needed to be done on its resistive touchscreen with stylus-designed Windows Mobile interface pretty much required a stylus in hand. Held in one hand and controlled by the other was the only way to go. However, with the capacitive touchscreen and touch-centric interface on my iPhone, I can now easily thumb around for 90% of what I do. I’m sure its competitors provide equal capability.

Most of what I do on my handheld is in vertical/portrait orientation. I’ll flip it for taking wide photos, watching videos, and getting a wider view of the screen contents, but I almost always tap out emails, surf the web, play Robocalypse, and do nearly everything else in portrait. Generally, I double-tap to zoom instead of pinch. I’m very adept at typing with one thumb in portrait and can’t get my head around two thumb typing in landscape. Controlling my handheld with one hand is actually more productive for me than two hands.

But maybe I’m the odd man out. What about you guys? What’s your preference in portrait mode? One hand or two?



  1. chippy

    10/30/2009 at 9:43 am

    one handed for me.

  2. burninorange

    10/30/2009 at 9:50 am

    one for me.

  3. Will

    10/30/2009 at 10:01 am

    Two hands, always. But then, I came from a Treo. The only time I one handed was on an old T9 style phone for text messaging.

  4. Mark

    10/30/2009 at 10:25 am

    Mostly two handed but sometimes one handed.

  5. Marc

    10/30/2009 at 11:09 am

    Im a med stduent doing alot of placements these days and ive dumped the old notebook and pen in favour of my iPhone (was evernote but with that crashing quite often and losing my notes, im putting them into notepad and then using copy/paste to upload them.)

    But i definately attempt to use landscape and two thumbs on my phone whenever i can. I type faster and more accurately on it and it really feels like a keyboard i can really “let loose” on :)

  6. SAM

    10/30/2009 at 11:41 am

    2 hands.
    How can you hold on to the phone and touch
    the screen/keys with one hand?

    I also dial with 2 hands, what am I doing wrong?

  7. Xavier Lanier

    10/30/2009 at 12:17 pm

    I use one hand a lot with my iPhone. Used to use two hands w/Blackberry and Treo.

    @Sam, if you have giant hands like me it’s not a problem. My thumb can tap anywhere on the screen comfortably. I do prefer typing longer messages with two hands though.

  8. Sumocat

    10/30/2009 at 12:22 pm

    @Marc: I’ve also found that Evernote on the iPhone, while wonderful for finding notes, is not a great tool for note creation, so I’ve taken to emailing items to my account. Works really well for me.

    @SAM: I never gave my grip much thought before now. I grip my phone so that my middle, ring, and pinky fingers press it against my palm at the crease in the middle. Leaves my thumb free to tap the screen. I shift the bottom corner of the phone up to the center of my palm for typing with my pinky often shifting under the bottom to keep it from sliding out. With this repositioning, my thumb can reach any part of the screen. My index finger ironically doesn’t do a lot, resting against the back for support. Works well for my average-sized hands and slightly pudgy fingers. Might not be effective for very large or small hands.

    And now that you got me thinking of it, the reason I never gave it much thought before is because I grip TV remote controls the same way. Who said you can’t learn nothing from TV?

  9. Absolutely NoOne

    10/30/2009 at 12:54 pm

    I use sliders, so it’s one hand portrait, two hand typing.

  10. Nameless

    10/30/2009 at 6:32 pm

    Two hands.

    I grip whatever device I’m using with my thumb along the left side and my fingers curling up on the right, no matter whether it’s my hx4700 or someone else’s iPhone/iPod touch.

    It makes it more stable since I’m usually poking the device’s screen right on rather than awkwardly reaching toward the screen with my thumb-something I don’t want to do on a surface with no tactile feedback whatsoever.

  11. vm-01

    10/30/2009 at 6:43 pm

    I use one hand and use my thumb when in portrait mode of any phone. At least on regular phone use.

    But I noticed that for one thing the iphone is bigger than most phones and that 2-hander is the official Steve Jobs way of using the iphone. Never underestimate the power of marketing.

  12. gmich

    11/02/2009 at 3:25 pm

    One handed w/ HTC Hero, including typing emails and texts. Only two-handed for videos and occasionally for viewing web content.

  13. mrpacs

    11/02/2009 at 10:10 pm

    1 thumb

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