The other day, my buddy got a shiny new 32GB iPod Touch. This morning he was kind enough to let me play with it and I’m glad he did because I learned that using that touch keyboard takes some practice. The bad news: you can get frustrated in a hurry trying to type with your finger tip. The good news: after about 15 minutes of touch typing, I found I was getting pretty proficient and I’m sure my speed and accuracy will keep getting better with practice.

It’s not exactly a secret that I have been jonesing for an iPhone (pretty much since Jobs first announced it in 2007), but I’ve been patient and I’m glad I was. In the good timing department, my cell phone contract expires this month just about the same time those shiny new second generation 3G iPhones hit the stores. But I’m grateful I got a chance to play first because I’m sure I would have despaired, wondering what exactly I had gotten myself into, had I not had the opportunity to practice my iPhone typing before the fact.

It includes word recognition, which on first blush sucks. How can ‘after’ be ‘acre’ or ‘acre be act,’ but I quickly learned to put up with its idiosyncrasies. I’m sure I could write tweets (140 character Twitter entries for the uninitiated), but full blog entries could definitely be a challenge. But who knows? With some practice I think I could get pretty good and maybe even longer entries wouldn’t be a problem. Not as fast as a keyboard, but still not bad considering. I found using a very light touch is the best way to go and I was faster using one hand where I could see the keyboard, but I’m sure each person’s experience will be a bit different.

I was having problem placing the cursor with my finger—you definitely don’t want to use a finger nail, just the pad of your finger seems to work best—until I learned you can drag your finger to magnify the text and easily place your cursor where you want it.

I haven’t looked at the typing tutorials yet on Apple’s web site. There are also competing tutorials that claim it’s faster if you don’t follow Apple’s advice. I think it really depends on your fingers size and your personal style, so you need to figure out what method works best for you and practice, practice, practice.

If you haven’t tried typing on an iPhone, don’t despair come Friday morning when you rip open the box and find you are having trouble doing it. Think about what is was like the first time you typed a text message on your cell phone number pad. I think it’s a much better experience than that. I still wish there were an external Bluetooth keyboard available for longer form writing, but until that day, we are all going to have to make sure we have the touch.

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