My first fumble with the BlackBerry Z10 hub was uninspiring, but what about the fancy new keyboard? A revolution of data input, or a typo waiting to happen? BlackBerry are pushing this hard as one of the must see features of BB10, so today I’ll adjust the anglepoise lamp and focus my spotlight on it.
Going to the flicks
Who’d have thought that there was any more that could be done to the on-screen keyboard? iOS has its basic keyboard. Stock Android Jelly Bean features gesture typing. Every Android phone manufacturer has their own keyboard. The Play store is full of third party keyboards that predict, slide, split and flow. Windows Phone also has its own idea of what’s best for your thumbs.
So, you’d have thought that BlackBerry would have used a generic keyboard that’s taken inspiration from the others. No. They’ve come up with another input method you never knew you needed: flicking!
I’m a long time user and big fan of SwiftKey, the original seemingly intelligent prediction keyboard. The way the new BlackBerry keyboard works is based around predictions too, but rather than guessing what the next word’s going to be it guesses the next letters in the word you’re typing, then puts its word predictions above the potential next letters on the keyboard. Once you see the word an upward sliding gesture “flicks” it into the text entry field.
Okay, I rewrote that paragraph about ten times and I still can’t get it to make sense to those who haven’t used it, so here’s BlackBerry’s video of how it works!
Sorry, nothing personal, you’re just not my type
I used the BlackBerry Z10 a lot during my week with it, and the vast majority of what I do on a phone is based around text entry. At first I couldn’t get on with the flicking mechanism. There were incorrect words flying around the screen, strings of letters I didn’t know I’d touched, and expletives that I can’t repeat streaming from my mouth. I was not impressed.
However, after a dozen or so emails I found myself getting the knack of the flick, and now I can type reasonably quickly with it given the right circumstances.
What do I mean by the right circumstances? Well, the prediction words that appear overlaid on the letters are pretty small, which is fine when typing whilst sitting still, but I found them very difficult to see whilst walking or on public transport. The predictions that are displayed above the keyboard, like on SwiftKey for example, don’t suffer from this. I’d hate to think how much squinting I’d have to do if BlackBerry release a smaller version of the Z10.
In conclusion, I have to applaud BlackBerry on their innovation. They could so easily have popped a basic keyboard on the Z10, but they came up with something new and different.
A little perseverance goes a long way here, and I’m sure this keyboard will suit a lot of people who give it a chance.
Those of you who type and travel a lot should take a walk around the phone shop with the handset before buying, but if you don’t do much typing on the move then I wholeheartedly recommend this new typing experience.
I should note here that I spent a long time trying to get a screenshot of the words flicking into place, however, it seems it’s impossible so feel free to use your imagination.