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Death of the Cell Phone Keypad As We Know It? 273

Posted by Zonk
from the two-to-beam-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes, "According to a CNet article, two companies called Mobience and Nuance have created viable and possibly better alternatives to the standard cell phone keypad. 'Mobience, which is based in South Korea, has redesigned the ABC and Qwerty key layout, and come up with MobileQwerty. It's essentially the same three-letters-per-key system as the standard mobile keypad layout, but the letters have been rearranged in a Qwertyesque way to increase efficiency.' The other system developed by Nuance is a mobile speech platform that turns speech into text and replaces the keypad altogether. I was skeptical at first but the video of Nuance's software vs. Ben Cook, the ex world texting champion, is undeniably impressive."
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Death of the Cell Phone Keypad As We Know It?

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  • but the letters have been rearranged in a Qwertyesque way to increase efficiency.

    So they've also been set up to avoid jamming?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by tepples (727027)
      So they've also been set up to avoid jamming?

      On T9, "he" and "if" are jammed together on 43. On MobileQWERTY, they are not.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        That's what the "Next" button is for on your phone. I think T9 is great. If you only have 9 keys, you're still going to need T9. I doesn't matter how you lay out the letters, it's always faster to type 1 key than average 2 keys for each letter. Depending on how smart the software is, T9 can really speed you up.
        • by Intron (870560)
          I don't have a NEXT key. Is it near the ANY key?
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Monsieur_F (531564)
          I was thrilled when I tried T9, but actually I think I prefer not to use it :
          for small words (and perhaps more problematically while less frequently for
          long words) it is hard to guess how many times you will have to press
          the "next" button. So it requires more attention than simply typing automatically
          (especially without having to watch the screen while typing) : knowing that
          pressing three times this key will give this character is predictable.
    • by Neil Hodges (960909) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:44AM (#16837480)
      So they've also been set up to avoid jamming?

      Then why don't they use the Dvorak layout? It's theoretically more efficient and the punctuation will be grouped to one key.

      I've been typing on Dvorak for years; why would they leave all non-QWERTY (default) users in the cold?

      Maybe the real question is this: why hasn't Dvorak caught on? Is change really that hard?

      • by edmicman (830206)
        why would they leave all non-QWERTY (default) users in the cold?
        All two of them?
      • by rjstanford (69735)

        Then why don't they use the Dvorak layout? It's theoretically more efficient and the punctuation will be grouped to one key.

        Why on Earth would it be more efficient to group all punctuation to a single key? Its already on 1 right now which really sucks when you're trying to use it for clarity. I'd love to see a layout based on avoiding predictive text clashes, personally. Probably different for each language, of course, but still if you're limiting yourself to 12 keys...

      • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @11:39AM (#16838168)
        Maybe the real question is this: why hasn't Dvorak caught on? Is change really that hard?


        Most people who are particularly concerned with typing efficiency are people with years of experience and very good efficiency on QWERTY keyboards; while Dvorak may be easier to develop efficiency with from the ground up, you'll take a proficiency hit if you are an excellent typist with years of experience with QWERTY. Plus, lots of people concerned with typing efficiency can't control the layout of every keyboard they might need to use, so switching layouts for their main use would require maintaining proficiency in both.

        And, of course, schools are going to keep teaching people on whatever is most common, so QWERTY has a pretty solid lock.

      • by julesh (229690)
        Then why don't they use the Dvorak layout? It's theoretically more efficient and the punctuation will be grouped to one key.

        Dvorak would be less efficient on a phone keypad, as all the most common letters would be placed on 3 buttons.
    • The texting champion was beat on late-night television by a ham radio operator using Morse code. I know Morse code, and can key it a hell of a lot faster than punching out T9 on a keypad, especially if I'm using IAMBIC paddles (a 2-key arrangement). Give me a cell phone with IAMBIC paddles, and I'll text circles around you.

      Until then, voice will do just fine.

  • by Salvance (1014001) * on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:22AM (#16837178) Homepage Journal
    Isn't the point of text messaging typically to say something you wouldn't want to say out loud? Nobody cares if you type something provocative, but if you say it while sitting there bored in a meeting, you're probably hosed. I'm not insinuating that the technology is a bad idea, I think it's really cool (particularly if it works better than most voice recognition software), but I don't see it contributing to the "Death of the Cell Phone Keypad as we know it".
    • by El Torico (732160) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:32AM (#16837318)
      I thought that this line was one of the most amusing things I've read in a while -

      In a practical situation, however, most mobile phone and voice-recognition users would agree that having to speak into your phone isn't always ideal or even possible.

      It shows just how different the idea of the "telephone" is from a decade ago.

      • by timeOday (582209)

        It shows just how different the idea of the "telephone" is from a decade ago.

        Email (which is what "texting" really is) hasn't changed too much though. I figure it's just a quirk of history that we think of cellphones as a phone with a pda, camera, and email. Had the Treo been #1, maybe we'd think of them as PDAs with voice capability. Not that the devices would have ended up any different anyways, it's just interesting how the particular evolutionary path can change how we think of something even if al

      • by mgblst (80109)
        Yes, it is now more of a communication device, and can handle different type of communications, from text, voice, data, fax, email and video. Of course, some people handle change better than others, and some are still amazed. I mean the name is different, mobile phone and telephone, but don't let that stop you from getting excited.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)
        In a practical situation, however, most two-way pager and voice-recognition users would agree that having to speak into your two-way pager isn't always ideal or even possible.

        Does that make more sense to you?

        Back in the day, mobile phones couldn't send text messages. Now they can.
      • by kthejoker (931838)
        More like it shows how limited the concept of voice communication is.

        The most powerful aspect of text communication is the sheer number of assumptions you can make.

        You don't have to say "Hello", "goodbye" or go through any off-beat pleasantries.
        You just say the message and you're done.
        You can encapsulate an entire message in one uninterrupted burst - this can eliminate a lot of unnecessary questions, dissemblage, and digressions.
        You can abbreviate.
        You can send messages which do not require a response.
        You ca
    • as insightful... I agree...

      on the one hand you have a new layout for the keypad that matches qwerty--qwerty works because you have 4 fingers and two thumbs available... for a keypad it might be a bit better, but what does it really gain?

      the other is speach to text... which completely stupid as a 100% replacement for a keypad because 100% of what I type in SMS' I don't want to say out loud, that's why I'm not calling.
      • by ethanms (319039)
        me brains not work good... another reason speech to text will suck.
        • by balsy2001 (941953)
          It can work just fine, it will translate what you say to text. That is not a problem with speech to text it is a problem with bad gramar. People who use bad gramar in speach will likely have bad gramar in typing. Speech impediments could be trouble some for the software.
      • by 0racle (667029)
        qwerty works because you have 4 fingers and two thumbs available.
        If I was going to use both thumbs, wouldn't I also use all 8 fingers?
    • I'm guessing you haven't been around any European teenagers lately. Frankly, they make the 308 presses/67 seconds record listed in the ad seem a bit low :p
    • It's not much of a stretch to see that it'd be handy for standard email messaging, instant messaging, note taking, and sending SMSs to multiple recipients. All of these are possible on today's phones.

      There are obviously more applications for this than cheating on tests and discreetly texting your girlfri... cheating on tests.

    • Isn't the point of text messaging typically to say something you wouldn't want to say out loud?

      Perhaps for some people. For me, the point is usually to let somebody know something that I don't expect an immediate reply to (e.g. because I'm asking them to make a decision that they'll need to think about before getting back to me, or I'm just notifying them of something they won't actually need to discuss with me).
  • speech into text (Score:5, Insightful)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayaguNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:27AM (#16837224) Journal

    Let's see, we got cell phones so we could talk. Then the cool idea of texting (yawn). And now, a mobile phone that let's you talk into it, and convert that to text to send a text message? Wow!

    I'm holding out for the phone that translates my voice directly into voice the other party can hear. Sigh

    • I'm holding out for the phone that translates my voice directly into voice the other party can hear.

      What a great idea! *rushes off to the patent office*
    • by mgblst (80109)
      Ok, don't get too upset. Texting came about as a cheap way to send a message, because calling on a mobile phone was quite expensive, even for a minute. There are also occasions when you want to communicate with someone, and not talk, like in the theatre, or a lecture, or a meeting. But these days, texting is very popular, because it is still cheaper, so in reality, it is just a way on encoding your voice message differently, and it is one way.

      I am sure that soon we will have readers for our text messages, a
      • by LMacG (118321)
        There are also occasions when you want to communicate with someone, and not talk, like in the theatre, or a lecture, or a meeting.

        Heaven forbid that one should watch the performance, listen to the speaker, or participage in the meeting. Honestly, whatever you have to say can probably wait.
        • by mgblst (80109)
          OK, so I guess you have never been to a meeting or lecture than is going to go on for an extra 30 minutes, and you might want to warn your girlfriend you will be late to meet her... oh, of course not, silly me.
      • Texting is not cheaper, at least in the US. Unless you have a plan with unlimited text messages, it will cost you 10 cents to send, and another 10 cents to receive. This is on top of the flat monthly rate you pay for your voice minutes. Plus a lot of plans include unlimited nights and weekends, or a close alternative, 1000 nights and weekend minutes on top of your regular minutes. Actually dialing a number and speaking to the person in real time is much cheaper, and much more courteous than texting (whe
        • by Jesus_666 (702802)
          But there's no way to pronounce "hi2u whr u? im at statn wtng fr trn". Obviously calling people does not do.
      • Ok, don't get too upset. Texting came about as a cheap way to send a message, because calling on a mobile phone was quite expensive, even for a minute.

        Not really.

        Texting came about as a side effect of how the gsm network works, and was initially not intended for end-users but for testing. That it exists in its current form is merely an accident.

        Sending a text message can be efficient when you have a very short message for someone, but as soon as some form of 2 way communications is required, or the message
    • Trade-Offs (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TubeSteak (669689)
      We're dealing with a series of trade offs

      speaking is faster than typing (for most people)
      reading is faster than listening (for most people)
      Time: speaking vs typing
      cost: static connection vs burst transmissions

      Talking on a cell phone is really expensive (once you run over your minutes) compared to a text message. At that point, it would be cheaper & faster to use a speech-to-text setup on your cellphone.

      The rest of the time, using a speech-to-text setup is merely a choice of conveinence, since it is gene
      • by grommit (97148)
        If you're constantly running over your voice minutes, perhaps you should just spend the extra $5-10 per month and increase your minutes? It's a helluva lot cheaper and easier than spending 5-10c for each arthritis generating text message.
        • by kisrael (134664)
          It's not just the expense of "minutes", it's the expense of time and attention.
          Txting is nicely asynchronous, and less of a grab for attention than voicemail, and much less time consuming to check.
    • by julesh (229690)
      I'm holding out for the phone that translates my voice directly into voice the other party can hear.

      Over here in the UK, BT already provides a service where they'll phone you and have a computer read your text messages over the line to you, so all you need to do is put the two services together...!
    • by Espectr0 (577637)
      Let's see, we got cell phones so we could talk. Then the cool idea of texting (yawn). And now, a mobile phone that let's you talk into it, and convert that to text to send a text message? Wow!

      Bah, speak for yourself. Everyone that wants to save some money, uses sms instead of calling for things that don't need a call.

      In countries like mine, where a cell phone minute costs 0.5 USD, and almost all cell plans come with lots of SMS, having voice-translated SMS would be cool and save lots of time.
  • I know my parents would love to say goodbye to the keypad. All the cellphones these days are just too small, the buttons too small (and what about people with really big fingers?) I tried finding them a cellphone with extra-large keys but gave up and bought them a motorola unit that they can kind of read but it's difficult without their reading glasses. Screw voice technology, just give me a cellphone with big digits on it... they know how to use a phone, no fancy voice activation stuff that will probab
  • My thumb hurts. My eyes burn. My brain aches.

    Looks like men now must make a choice. Texting or masturbation. No man will be able to coordinate both with keypads like this.
  • by Weaselmancer (533834) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:28AM (#16837244)

    I hear Dvorak keyboards are more efficient. But I don't use one. Why? I already have the qwerty keypad memorized. Not only would I have to learn the Dvorak layout, but I'd have to somehow forget the qwerty one.

    So yeah, this might be a great idea - if you've never used a keypad before.

    • by CoderBob (858156) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:42AM (#16837442)
      You don't have to forget qwerty. I used dvorak for a while, and while I don't remember it well enough anymore to really be productive with it, I could switch back and forth between the two without too much difficulty. I remember typing faster qwerty (not "correct" qwerty, but my slightly hybrid version) than dvorak, but that was probably 6 years of qwerty vs. 2 months of dvorak.

      It's like knowing C and Python seperately. You can code in either C or Python without forgetting the other every time you need to switch languages. You might slip up here and there with syntax or function names until you've built up some decent experience with both of them, but knowing both opens up a lot of options. The same could be said for multiple keyboard layouts. Knowing both provides options.

  • T9 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Yer Mum (570034)

    However it won't catch on because everybody's used to the ABC layout, and somebody's already come up with T9 which works well enough for most people for entering large amounts of text instead of numbers.

    If it were otherwise, computer keyboards would be Dvorak instead of Qwerty.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by b0s0z0ku (752509)
      somebody's already come up with T9 which works well enough for most people for entering large amounts of text instead of numbers.

      T9's annoying. (a) I often text in other languages than English - business reasons. (b) it's too much like Clippy. 'Did you mean "foo"?' (when I try to type "doo".)

      -b.

      • "(b) it's too much like Clippy. 'Did you mean "foo"?' (when I try to type "doo".)"

        What kinda conversations do you have where you type 'doo'? Using SMS to discuss Sony's marketing strategy?
  • Well duh, that's just stupid. Yes, speaking might be quicker than texting but if I'm somewhere I can text using speech recognition I might as well pick up the phone and talk.
  • From what I've seen from the QWERTY links, the keypad stays very much alive. The key mappings are what change. And it seems to me that the cases in which you are likely to use text messaging are not generally cases where efficiency is essential.
  • Coolest design is... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by b0s0z0ku (752509) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:32AM (#16837312)
    a Siemens SK65 ca. 2004 like I have. The keypad rotates out [engadget.com] when needed and is usable with the thumbs like a video game machine. Very ergonomic once you get used to it. And you still have the option of text entry on the numeric pad if you don't want to unfold the phone for some reason. Only problem: it's a Euro tri-band phone that doesn't do 850mHz, so reception outside NYC is sometimes a little spotty. It even has Blackberry functionality built in.

    -b.

    • You forgot one of it's most important features--it protects you from vampires!
      • by b0s0z0ku (752509)
        You forgot one of it's most important features--it protects you from vampires!

        That's the one bug, not a feature! Those goth chicks are hot, unfortunately, they run screaming when I use the phone. Oh well, can't have it all, I guess.

        -b.

  • They missed the European Union's EUROPHON-1 Standard [mobilegazette.com] (pronounced "euro phoney") out. This is clearly a case of the European Union gone mad. ;)
  • by bahwi (43111)
    Nuance creates Dragon Naturally Speaking, and version 9 is the best so far. Yeah, it's not great for programming, but it gives my hands a break for IMs and E-Mails, as well as has a speech-to-text for MP3's from my voice recorder(yes, not a big feature for most people, but it is for me). 8 was good, but you had to train it, I've barely had to correct 9 at all.
  • Oblig. (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:35AM (#16837356) Homepage Journal
    The other system developed by Nuance is a mobile speech platform that turns speech into text and replaces the keypad altogether.
    Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all.
  • MobileQwerty (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mattwarden (699984) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:42AM (#16837446) Homepage
    Why would a qwerty layout on a 10 digit keypad be more efficient than some other layout? They seem to be assuming that the knowledge a user has to use a qwerty layout on a traditional keypad would translate easily to the 10 digit layout. I'm not so sure that's how it works (and I was a Cognitive Science major).
  • From Mobience page [mobience.com] (SWF):

    As a legal applicant of relevant patents, we think we are the one to choose the right layout and it's our responsibility. (In fact, both of them are within the scope of relevant patents to protect injudicious and confusing variations.) We believe there must be a single right mobile layout for globality and universality reasons just like the keyboard case.

    So don't plan on seeing anything like this in the Free world for 20 years.

  • Simpsons did it? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Curmudgeonlyoldbloke (850482) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:45AM (#16837504)
    http://www.blackberry.com/products/suretype/index. shtml [blackberry.com]
    (OK - that has with 5 keys across rather than 3)

    It's not a perfect solution - a number of 3 letter combinations have multiple words that they can mean. Actually, what I'd rather have is something like the old Microwriter Agenda:

    http://www.geoff.org.uk.nyud.net:8080/museum/micro writer.htm [nyud.net]

    but without the individual character ABCDE etc. keys.
  • If they realy wanted to make an efficant phone keypad they would put a morse code button on the phone. I don't know morse code but if I had a button where I could type without even looking at the keypad I would learn it and use it.
  • by thesolo (131008) <slap@fighttheriaa.org> on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @10:56AM (#16837646) Homepage
    If you rearrange the letters and the numbers they correspond with, won't that screw up phone numbers that use text spellings? For example, Comcast's main phone number is 1-800-COMCAST (800-266-2278). If suddenly your keypad has "TUY" mapped to number 2 instead of number 8, that spelling isn't going to work any longer. With "MobileQwerty", 1-800-COMCAST becomes 1-800-739-7472, aka a wrong number. What are they planning on doing, only having the letters arranged differently for sending text messages, and otherwise having the standard ABC configuration for normal dialing? Seems like it would be very confusing.
    • by julesh (229690)
      In most countries, the letter/number mapping you're talking about isn't used so much. Over here in the UK, for example, I think I've seen about 3 numbers advertised using that method in the last year, and all of them have the numeric information as well, for people who don't understand how it works. I've never seen the system used in the mainland Europe countries I've travelled in either.
      • by thesolo (131008)
        Good to know, thank you. Here in the US, it's used very often, I see lots of large businesses use that mapping to spell out various things with their phone numbers. Several comedians have poked fun at the practice as well, such as Mitch Hedberg:

        You know when a company wants to use letters in their phone number, but often they'll use too many letters? "Call 1-800-I-Really-Enjoy-Brand-New-Carpeting." Too many letters, man, must I dial them all? "Hello? Hold on, man, I'm only on 'Enjoy.'"

    • by mrpaco18 (958815) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @12:38PM (#16839108)
      My Blackberry uses a qwerty letter arrangement (over 5 keys instead of 3, but the point remains). It allows me to enter letters directly into the number I am dialing and then converts the letters into the appropriate numbers before placing the call. For example, in the number you provide, I would enter 1-800-COMCAST. My Blackberry would then convert that into 1-800-266-2278 and place the call.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Chapter80 (926879)
      Others have mentioned the conversion process that could exist on the phone.

      One thing to consider: By statistically laying out the alphabet, with high frequency letters spread over all keys, you increase the likelihood that a phone number will spell something in the NEW system.

      Right now, the numbers 0,1,5 and 9 have very little use (because they only have the letters JKLWXYZ on them), In this new system, there would be 9 numbers with the nine most popular letters on them.

      So you'd just need to know wh

  • First of all I'd like not to talk while sending an SMS or dialing a number. For the sake of my privacy and politeness.
    Second I'd like to see a better device design. Keyboard constraints are due to "standard" designs: brick shaped devices give no alternatives.
    Third I'd like to see some more advance in the T9-like technologies: they lack context analysis.
  • Most people just use the numbers. I only use the letters on my phone when adding a contact. For this reason I prefer a layout in the traditional abc order. I guess if I was sending text messages all day I might think differently, but I prefer to just call somebody if I wish to talk to them using a telephone.
  • think of DDR (dance dance revolution) when they first looked at their webpage? Immagine dialing your buddy by making some dance moves! Now mouse gestures are to web browsing as dancing is to calling your buddy!
  • These two companies are basically making minor modifications to existing technology and C-Net is trying to pass it off as something revolutionary. These publications are always blowing things out of proportion.

    The reason why keyboards and phone keypads haven't changed much in all this time is because it's exceedingly difficult to come up with anything more practical than we have now. Touch screen displays certainly have helped to some extent, but even that is inferior to a keypad. Perhaps there's some kind
  • Any attempts at creating a new standard layout ought to aim for maximum efficiency, not some half-qwerty inspired layout. It should take into account, not only the number of key presses, but the distance between various keys. This may be complicated by balancing one and two handed operation.

    One thing is certain though; after you feed your parameters through a genetic algorithm of some sort, you are unlikely to end up with anything resembling a qwerty layout. With a 9x9 keypad, perhaps the
    possible improve
  • I just bought a pair of Blackberry Pearl [blackberrypearl.com] phones; one for me, and one for my wife. The phone has two additional columns of keys, giving enough room to put two QWERTY letters per key. They have a system similar to T9 called SureType that does predictive input.

    From the statistics standpoint, having 3 letters per key gives you a 33% chance of guessing the right letter. Moving to a system with two letters per key increases those odds to 50%.

    I used to own a phone with T9, and I can say without hesitation that
  • And im darn happy with it. It is one of the main reasons i didnt change my cellular since 2002. you feel just at home, while typing sms'es.
  • I'd rather have my entire phones face be a touch screen. That way if I've got to write a quick email to someone it would work like this. Let's just say my "personal communicator" dings and the message is regarding some new piece of technology we're talking about deploying and I'd like to white board to understand how they're going to stuff this abomnination into my lab... The message I'd be likely to send is something like "Can we quickly meet to talk about this?".

    I'd like to have the option of having som
  • From TFA:

    In a practical situation, however, most mobile phone and voice-recognition users would agree that having to speak into your phone isn't always ideal or even possible.

    Maybe you shouldn't be using a phone then. So long as the primary purpose of a device is two-way audio communications, it's going to (or should) be designed to do that best. Now, even though I am a Fat American(tm), I know that a lot of the world uses text messaging more than anything else. So - shouldn't there instead be a text-me

  • Try to create an English sentence of 160 letters but only 4 words.

    The mobiescence site says it can by typed in 20 seconds on a QWERTY keyboard with 164 keystrokes.

  • Morse Code (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday November 14, 2006 @01:18PM (#16839818)
    A while back on Leno, they pitted a teenaged, self-proclaimed fast text messager against an old guy who knew Morse code. They gave each of them the same message to send, and started them at the same moment to see who could send their message faster.

    The Morse code guy pretty much kicked that cell phone whippersnapper's ass.

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