People are able to type on their phones almost as fast as they can on a keyboard, a new study has found.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge and Aalto University in Finland found that smartphone design and typing features are rapidly improving mobile typing speeds.
In what they described as the largest experiment to date on mobile typing speeds, they predicted that as people become less skilled with a keyboard and as smart methods for mobile alternatives continue to improve, the gap may become even smaller.
On average, keyboard typists usually knock out between 35 and 65 words per minute (wpm) and although some used to be able to type at 100 wpm, that level of skill is decreasing.
Dr Anna Feit, one of the co-authors of the study, said: “We were amazed to see that users typing with two thumbs achieved 38 words per minute on average, which is only about 25% slower than the typing speeds we observed in a similar large-scale study of physical keyboards.”
The fastest speeds the researchers identified on a touchscreen was one user who managed to type out 85 words per minute.
How can you type quickly? According to the researchers, the best indiciation of how quickly a mobile user will type is whether they use one finger or two thumbs.
“Over 74% of people type with two thumbs, and the speed increase it offers is very large,” the study found. In addition, enabling autocorrect “offers a clear benefit” while word prediction – or manually choosing word suggestions – does not.
Sunjun Kim, a researcher at Aalto University, explained: “The given understanding is that techniques like word completion help people, but what we found out is that the time spent thinking about the word suggestions often outweighs the time it would take you to type the letters, making you slower overall.”
The study found that most mobile users used some kind of smart support to help them typing, and only 14% of people typed without autocorrect, word suggestions or gesture typing enabled.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, young people between 10 and 19 years of age are typically 10 wpm fast than people in their 40s.
Professor Antti Oulasvirta of Aalto University said: “We are seeing a young generation that has always used touchscreen devices, and the difference to older generations that may have used devices longer, but different types, is staggering.”
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