The iPhone Keyboard

The iPhone “virtual” keyboard is still driving me bonkers, but I think I may be winning.

One of the many, many things in modern life that puzzles me is “how have iPhones and Blackberries become so popular when their keyboards are so utterly dreadful and difficult to use?” I am neither ham-fisted nor sausage-fingered, but accurately typing on these devices almost defeats me (see last week’s blog). I’m not concerned with Blackberries here, but, since I’m coming round to liking the iPhone in most other respects (leaving aside privacy issues, of course), I decided I had to find a better way.

My main problem is writing text messages.The keyboard is so small, and the precision of the touch so bad, that there seems to be about a 1 in 4 chance that I’m going to get the character next to the one I actually want. I’ve turned off the auto-correct because that just makes the situation ten times worse. With auto-correct turned on, my text messages look as if they were written by Stanley Unwin (if you don’t remember Stanley Unwin, try this clip as an introduction). Using a capacitive stylus helps, but it’s like using a barge pole compared with the precision of a resistive stylus on a decent phone. Also, the stylus goes walkabout because you can’t push it back into the iphone like you can with a decent phone.

So, I decided to attack the problem from a different angle and did some googling. I found that there are telecoms services that allow you to send text messages from your computer instead of using your mobile phone. After investigating two or three of these, I found four major flaws to this approach:

  • You have to pay the telecoms service to send text message that may have been free if sent directly from a mobile phone.
  • The phone doesn’t have a history of the messages sent.
  • The message arrives at the recipient bearing a sender’s phone number other than your own mobile number. There may or may not be ways around this, but they all seemed too clunkey to bother with.
  • The messages may not get delivered! One telecoms provider I spoke to confirmed that some networks won’t deliver their messages. Hmm.

So, back to googling and I found a program called myPhoneDesktop. It consists of free software installed on the PC (or Mac or Linux computer) and an iPhone app that costs £2.99.

You prepare the text on the PC or Mac using the installed program (or by doing it from the company’s website), tell it what phone number will finally receive the message (not your own!), and click on a button. This sends the message to the app on the iPhone. All you need to do then is click “send” on the iphone and the message is whisked away into cyberspace exactly as if it had been prepared on the iphone. It’s easier to do it than describe it. After sending three or four messages, it becomes second nature. Here are some screenshots of the preparation process on the PC (or Mac) and what the message looks like when received on the iPhone:

Steps in preparing a message in myPhoneDesktop
This is the preparation of the message, as carried out on the PC or Mac.

Screenshot of the myPhoneDesktop app.
This is the app on the iPhone that has received the message. Just press “send” to send the message as if it had been created on the iphone. It will then appear in the normal messages app.

Until today, I’d only used it “for real” for sending text messages, but I’ve just tried it for sending long and complicated URLs (ie website addresses) from my PC to the phone. That works as easily as sending text messages. It can also be used for sending large chunks of text, pictures, and so on.

You may have spotted the one big problem with all of this – you have to have a “proper” computer available. True. Urgent text messages may still need to be sent “on the hoof” using the iphone, but if, like me, you have correspondents who prefer texting to emailing and who can wait until you are in front of a proper computer, then it seems to me that myPhoneDesktop makes life a lot easier.

Oh yes, there’s another limitation – as far as I can tell this software only works with the Apple iPhone app. There’s no equivalent myPhoneDesktop app for Android, Windows Mobile or Windows 8 Phone. I dare say, though, that there are equivalent solutions for these mobile systems made by other developers.