Continuing our top 10 reasons why the Android operating System is great, today we introduce the concept of Keyboard Input Types!

A constantly under used feature, and non-existent in Windows Mobile, the concept of the Keyboard Input Type in Android is that you can choose what style of keyboard you present to the user depending on the task at hand.  This brings 2 major points up in my view:

  • The first is that “Rugged PDA’s tend to have keyboards I hear you say”, but the fact is that Android Rugged PDA’s in particular have issues with their physical keyboards in so much as they were built for Windows Mobile and converted to Android so many keys are missing and they simply aren’t intuitive to use.
  • The second issue is that Android is really built for large capacitive screen style smart phone devices and even the Android devices we sell tend to have 4.3″ screens and no physical keyboard.

So how do you make the user input easy?  The answer is to give the user the right on screen keyboard depending on what she os actually trying to input at the time.  The Keyboard Input Type!

Let me give you an example.

Lets take our friendly neighbourhood engineer who spends his day fixing boilers.  He wakes up and gets his jobs on his Rugged PDA, he drives to the job, does the work and then updates the case so that his central office can invoice and follow-up on the case.  When he closes a case down, he’ll probably want to add some parts used and this field might be numeric.  Well in Android there’s a keyboard that will pop up automatically to give him big fat number buttons.  He might then want to update the case so in that field he needs the standard Qwerty keyboard, and then he may need to make a phone call so he wants the phone pad style keyboard.  Maybe he needs to work out the bill and enter that, in which case the NumberDecimal keypad is right.

When we’re mobile we need to do things differently.  The Android Keyboard Input Types feature has over 20 different settings to help you enter data quickly, accurately and easily when in the field.  Add to this the new “Swype” keypad in 4.2 and above aids faster input and if this isn’t enough then why not try one of the hundreds of keyboards that have been custom made for all kinds of different niche usages!

The Rugged and Mobile blog.

About The Author

Dave's one of the founders of RAM, his rants are awesome, his thoughts are whacky and his heart is set on helping, entertaining and making things simple.

2 Responses

  1. Cheeky

    Interesting but does this really mean the screen keyboard is better than a hardware based one? Me for one thinks a nice qwerty keyboard is the best way but these Android phones don’t even have one like that any more.

    Why specifically do you think an on screen keyboard beats a qwerty one, say like on the Motorola ES400?

    • ruggedandmobile

      Well Cheeky! There are also things that are better on a physical keyboard too but an onscreen keyboard has many benefits. The one that the blog was trying to demonstrate here was the fact that your device/solution can generate a different keyboard for a whole range of activities or inputs you are trying to do. So say you’re scanning a barcode through your inhouse built mobile solution, it could be scanning parts off your van or a parcel etc. Now say the barcode mis-reads or is not scanning and you have to input it manually. Well you can choose from 20+ built in keypads in Android to make that task easier. If you know for instance that your barcodes are just numbers, then why show a qwerty keypad? You would flash up a big dumb number pad that would make life easier.

      What about if you’re taking an email from a customer to send a PDF invoice or receipt? Well the keypad that pops up would be essentially a qwerty one but it would have subtle changes in it like having the @ and .com or .co.uk buttons readily available.

      It’s not only in applications you can do this, the whole worldwide web is respodning to this way of doing things too. In the HTML5 Forms object, you can now raise these keypads automatically too so even websites on mobile devices will become easier to use in the same way.

      Lastly the lack of keyboard means that the device’s LCD can be larger which is a major trend we’re seeing right now. larger screens, better batteries but in smaller devices!

      Hope that helps.