The T-Mobile G1 keyboard: A lesson in failed ergonomics

I have pretty average-sized hands for a guy. And trying to use the keyboard on T-Mobile’s new G1, the first phone built to run Google’s Android platform, is ridiculous. I got my hands (literally) on the device for the first time this weekend, and all I can say is that if you complained about the iPhone’s keyboard because it didn’t have physical buttons, get ready for an even worse experience on the G1.

The problem is in the design. The G1 has a rather large bottom, or right-hand side depending on how you have it oriented. This area, like on the iPhone, holds the main buttons (the iPhone of course, only had the one main button) for the device’s navigation. The problem with the G1 is that when you flip out the physical keyboard, it’s placed far beneath where your hands are naturally resting on this right-side — which doesn’t flip up with the rest of the screen. (If it’s hard to envision, take a look at the picture above.)

This makes for a situation where hitting the space key — which I always do with my right hand on a regular keyboard — is a major strain on my right thumb. And of course, you’re going to hit the space key a lot when you type. As I said, I have what I’d consider average sized hands for a male, certainly some men with larger hands may be okay with this keyboard (though their undoubtedly larger digits will have trouble hitting the small keys), but men with smaller hands and most women will undoubtedly hate this keyboard.

Sure, I could re-teach myself to hit the space bar and some of the other keys closer to the center-left with my left hand, but why should I? I have absolutely no problem with it on the iPhone’s keyboard. It’s simply an example of poor design. Even when I’m not straining to reach keys, the whole typing process just feels awkward with this device that has two different hand placement levels when horizontally oriented.

The T-Mobile Sidekick, which also has a flip-out screen, at least is symmetrical, allowing your hands to rest equally on each side. HTC, which made the G1, should have taken its cues from that design.

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