Study finds people can now type on smartphones nearly as fast as on computer keyboards

Thanks to all that screen time we’ve been putting in with our smartphones, a recent study found that people can now type nearly as fast on their mobile devices as they can on desktop keyboards.

The study from Aalto University, University of Cambridge and ETH Zürich analyzed the mobile typing skills of more than 37,000 volunteers from 160 countries who took an online test to assess their speed, errors and other factors.

Researchers found that people type about 70 percent as fast on mobile devices as on keyboards using only one or two fingers. The average typing speed was 36.2 words per minute with 2.3 percent uncorrected errors.

However, those who typed with two thumbs managed an average of 38 words per minute, only 25 percent slower than the average typing speed on a full-sized keyboard, researchers said.

One person in the study managed to crank out a remarkable 85 words per minute, researchers said.


A file image taken June 1, 2018 shows a man typing on his smartphone. (Photo by Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The majority of volunteers in the study were women in their early twenties and about half of the participants came from the United States.

Researchers found the best predictor of performance is whether you use one finger or two thumbs to type on mobile. More than 74 percent of participants typed with two thumbs, and the speed increase it offers is “very large,” researchers said.

The study also found that those using auto-correct tended to type faster compared to those relying on word prediction, or manually choosing word suggestions.

“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,” sadi Sunjun Kim, a researcher at Aalto University.

Age played a factor as well: Younger people between the ages of 10 to 19 typed about 10 words per minute faster than people in their 40s.

Overall, the participants reported spending an average of six hours per day on their mobile devices.

"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," said Antti Oulasvirta, a professor at Aalto University, in a press release.

The study authors predicted that as people use physical keyboards less, the gap between typing speeds on a keyboard and a smartphone will likely close at some point.

“While one can type much faster on a physical keyboard, up to 100 wpm, the proportion of people who actually reach that is decreasing,” said Anna Feit, a researcher at ETH Zürich and one of the study’s co-authors. “Most people achieve between 35 to 65 WPM.”

So if you want to type faster on your smartphone, the researchers say using two thumbs and enabling auto-correct is the way to go.

This story was reported from Cincinnati.