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July 29, 2010


Mikko Lehtovirta, Helsinki, Finland

Tomi, thanks again for a throughout exercise with the issue! As, like many young&middle-aged males, I haven been among the first to try new models, of Nokia here in Finland as we are - the only exception is Comm. which I never have owned.

From my personal and subjective point of view:

T9 -keypad

T9 is irritating if you have to roll through the right letter all the time. The proactive keypad was a big improvement, in case the library of the phone was in good shape..which was not the case with the older phones. And even today, the ability of a Nokia phone to store new words in the memory does not convince me.

There is one single feature, that makes T9 superior to all alternative keypads even today: you truly can type one-handed. I think it is something that is so self-evident that it usually is ignored. I have owned E71 which has excellent feel in its tiny qwerty-pad, and, yes, learned to use it with one hand, too. However, I would say, that to do that, you have to want to learn to use 1-hand-qwerty, i.e. you have to be willing to give some extra thoughts for it. Else you will find it "too complicated".


In addition to what I wrote above, the Communicator - and N97 -types of qwerty-keypads are, in fact, for me, personally, a disappointment. Because the keypads in these are usually arranged in the same way they are in pc:s, by simply shrinking the button-size and spacing, there is really very little room for two hands. And still you need the two hands because the gadget in general becomes unstable if you try to hold and type it with one hand only. To use N97-keypad with two hands is, ok: you type using mainly your thumbs, and quite fast it goes. But c'moon, you are using a *mobile* phone and you need your both hands!

touch screens

Exactly like you wrote: there for my eyes, too, is this hype with the futuristic touch screens. After the honeymoon is over, however, the limitations become evident. Touch screen is far from being ideal for tapping in letters. It is at its best in pointing and moving things. Nokia's version of the touch screens are unfortunately one of the main reasons they are in trouble at the moment. The N97 screen is not precise, it is not sensitive, and the vibration feedback is often delayed, and does not increase sensation of "real contact with the virtual button". The iPhone -type feathertouch works better, although is, too, a bit laboursome to learn.

In fact, Nokia's attempt has one clear advance compared to the rest: the vibration basicly enables typing *without* looking at the keypad.

Oh, and one major minus for N97:s virtual T9-keypad:it is the most inconsistent proactive T9 I have ever met! You have to scroll more than 5 symbols to get a period!!

So, if I may say, an ideal keypad

-can be managed with one hand
-can be used without having to look at the screen
-learns during the use, and thus becomes more intuitive
-can be adjusted with additional vocabularies, that could be bought from the e-vendors, could be stored and managed in the pc/mac/web and so on

I believe, that the time has not at all passed by with T9 - there are huge possibilities with it, if only phone makers would be interested to invest in its developement. If I were Nokia, I certainly would do that.

In the future: a 3D virtual keypad that is controlled with one or both hands, and that is independent of the physical phone. Of course..

Best regards from exceptionally warm Helsinki, where smells burned Russian potatoes i.e. August, it is coming :)


Hi Tomi,

It's really a coincidence that GSM arena have also an article about shape a couple of week back:

But, somehow your number and their number seems very far apart. I know your method of calculating the number and their method is different. But I think the number should reflect very closely. Your number on QWERTY, touch screen & hybrid seems very low.

BTW, thanks for bringing this stats. I love stats :)


Hi Tomi,

Your statement regarding diversity in input preferences among users is very true. In a joined research project between Microsoft Research, UCLA and USC, we found that users are very diverse in every aspect.

So it seems there is potential for even further diversification in form factors.


In case I missed the URL in my previous comment:


As a fairly popular, unemployed, homeless writer/blogger/evangelist/mobility "expert", I consider you my mentor, inspiration, and idol, and always enjoy your blog posts. I have literally learned this business from visionaries and consultants across the globe, but you are by far the greatest source of information on mobility technology in the world.

If you ever need anyone to iron your clothes, wash your car, change your Nokia battery (you MUST use a Nokia, I assume...), type papers, read aloud, answer phones, or even be a guineau pig, I'm at your service. As I've said every year since 2008, I'm dead serious, and seeking ANY employment/internship with you and your consultancy. I haven't had a regular paying job in 3 years, and would work for $18k USD or less in any capacity required as long as I can listen and learn from you.

Thank you again for today's lesson. I'm anxious for your next post, and maybe the chance to make one here on my own one day. Hit me up on Facebook anytime.

With honor,
Chris McFann

Antoine RJ Wright

Inteeresting post. Guess that I am one of those weird ones, because I love the hybrid interface of my Nokia N97, and really wouldn't prefer to have my personal device any otheer way. Also weird, because I'd use the keyboard for this, but the on-screen numeric keypad for text messages and similar quick messages.

I've recently been able to play with Swype and have to day that it a nice solution. I could see where it comes in handy with devices with larger touch screens. It makes a lot fo sense for shorter messages with simpler words.

Voice is ok, but for commands not composition. Maybe one day,..

Tomi T Ahonen

Hi Mikko, cygnus, Hossein, christexpsort and Antoine

Mikko - thanks! Very good detailed points and I agree with all of it, and very good point about T9 being the best for single-handed operation. I am partially missing that issue, as on the E90 Communicator it has both QWERTY inside the flip-open Palmtop format, and the basic T9 on the outside case when the phone is closed. And you are right, its been very often that I've still used the T9 for quick messages etc while at an airport etc, with something (my roll-on suitcase) in my other hand, etc.

cygnus - very good point and yes, I am aware of the GSM Arena analysis of the new phone models database. The difference there, is that they count all new phone models as one single item. Their database does not account for unit sales. So it is not a measure of installed base, it is a charting of new phone models only. So if 5 new super-expensive touch screen Android phones are released this year, they get 5 touch screen form factor additions. And then Nokia does one Africa phone with basic T9. It sells 10x more than those 5 Android smartphones combined - but in the GSM Arena database, the 5 touch screen phones outunmber T9 on that one day, 5 to 1. So their database is very good, but it does not take the installed base into account (and obviously they say so too). What they have done, is tried to weigh the data for popularity of a phone but there the uses weigh most expensive and internet-oriented phones (touch screens) far more than traditional phones. Again, its a shortcoming of what their database is and what they can get out of it. The numbers and data is very useful, but obvioulsy are not a measure of installed base. As you can see my data is far more consistent with other studies of installed base, than the GSM Arena database is. But yes, its funny, they came out with a big article about form factors too just a little while ago... Thanks.

And all readers, please go visit, that has several pages of great stats and facts including screen size evolution, phone weight evolution, some 'dead end' phone form factors, etc.

Hossein - thanks! Excellent researh yes, and thanks for the link to the pdf. Very much worth reading.

Chris - thanks! You know, we've talked about it, that I don't have anyone employed to help me, so its you and me here on the blog haha.. But yeah, I really appreciate that, and you keep at it, you'll find a cool job in this field sooner or later, and we will need to hook up in person to have that cup of coffee at some point. Cheers.

Antoine - thanks, yeah that sounds a lot like many heaviliy into their mobile tech haha...

Thank you all for writing

Tomi Ahonen :-)


@ Tomi,
One lump of sugar or two? Heheheh...

The desire will always burn, and I guarantee when you are in Texas, we will have that cup of coffee. And thanks for remembering after all these years. Not surprised, as your mind is a steel trap.

Alex Setzer

Hi Tomi,

thanks for your blog, I enjoy reading it everytime and it is a great input.

I since recently own my first Touchscreen phone (HTC Android based), and I use my touchscreen with the T9 keyboard layout. There is of course, and I think it is thought by HTC to be the main input a QWERTY Layout, but I am much quicker on the T9. So I use the supermodern Touchscreen to simulate the oldfashioned Mobilephonelayout! I wonder how many people actually do this.

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This is a sort of blog we can have loads of information i would like to appreciate the intelligence of this blog's owner

Pranay Sakhare

que.What was the reason for touch screen technology to be so costly earlier?

what do u think of this....??

and sudden change in cost is due to...

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