Three ways to make typing on the iPhone easier

Have you ever tried to compose some text on your iPhone and become frustrated with the keyboard because finding the right letter takes too long? This situation can be resolved through some simple solutions!

We review three distinct solutions - Siri and Dictation, the Bluetooth keyboard and FlickType - to make typing on the iPhone easier, particularly for people with a visual impairment or dexterity problems, explaining how they work and their pros and cons.

Voice recognition (Siri and Dictation)

There are two main types of voice recognition you can use to help type on your iPhone – Siri and Dictation.

Siri is the iPhone’s personal assistant which can perform many tasks, such as sending messages and searching the internet. To activate Siri, hold down the home button until two successive tones sound (or two successive vibrations if you’re not using VoiceOver). Providing it’s set up, you can also activate Siri simply by saying ‘Hey Siri!’ (if you have an iPhone 6 or earlier, your phone will need to be connected to a power source for ‘Hey siri’ to work). Once you hear either the tones or vibrations, you can immediately start speaking.

Close-up of a iPhone with Siri activated. It asks 'What can I help you with?' on the screen.

For more information on Siri, you can check out this video from our very own Knowledge Village. It may also be worth checking out the Apple Support page for Siri.

Dictation is built in to the iPhone’s QWERTY keyboard. To activate dictation, locate the ‘dictate’ button to the left of the space bar. If you are a VoiceOver user, double tap the ‘dictate’ button with one finger, wait for the lower tone and speak what you want to be typed. When finished, double tap with two fingers and the iPhone will sound a higher pitched tone in order to signal that Dictation is now switched off. VoiceOver will then say ‘inserted’ followed by the dictated text and this signals that what has been dictated has been entered into the text field.

Pros

  • Using Siri is quick as it avoids the need to launch other apps, find the relevant contact or locate any buttons such as ‘send’ or ‘search’.
  • Siri is ideal for beginners – all you really need is the home button and your voice.
  • It can be useful if you’re not sure of how to spell a word; you could use Dictation to insert a word, or ask Siri how to spell certain words.

Cons

  • There can be a lot of mishearings from Siri and dictation.
  • Siri and dicatation are not great solutions for when you want to be confidential or discrete.
  • Functionality is limited – both Siri and Dictation are only really useful for sending quick, short messages; you need to have an Internet connection for them to work and Siri is not supported by many apps like Facebook and Twitter (although Dictation is).

Bluetooth keyboard

Bluetooth keyboards are external devices which connect to your phone via Bluetooth and can be used for typing and navigating around your iPhone. There are many brands and models of Bluetooth keyboard which have slightly different lay-outs but similar functionality. This AppleVis blog gives an overview of just a few of the many Bluetooth keyboards that are out there.

Pros

  • If you are a confident typist, the Bluetooth keyboard is a great way to type quickly and efficiently.
  • As it’s essentially like typing on a laptop or PC, it makes typing long documents comfortable, quick and easy.
  • You can access all letters, numbers and punctuation in one go, whereas on the iPhone keyboard you have to cycle between modes for certain letters or symbols.

Cons

  • A Bluetooth keyboard is physically a separate product so it may not be convenient to take it out and about.
  • A Bluetooth keyboard may not suit somebody who is a new to typing or unfamiliar with the iPhone.
  • By default, when a Bluetooth keyboard is connected, the on-screen keyboard is invisible. While this can easily be resolved, this may be an issue when you don’t have access to your keyboard but it is still connected as it would mean that you cannot type or use the ‘dictate’ button. At present, you can only make the on-screen keyboard visible using the keyboard; you cannot do it from your iPhone.

FlickType

FlickType is an app that enables you to type using the touchscreen keyboard without the need for accuracy; tap where you think each letter is, swipe right and it will guess what word you were typing. If the first suggestion isn’t what you want, just swipe down to scroll through further suggestions.

When you’re done, swipe up with two fingers and you will be presented with an actions menu including ‘copy and clear’ and ‘export text’. ‘Copy and clear’ copies the text to your clipboard so that you can copy and paste it anywhere, and ‘export text’ presents you with a share sheet so that you can launch certain apps such as Messages, Facebook and Mail.

An iPhone with the Flicktype screen displayed. It has typed out on the screen 'this is Flick type'.

For more information, including help guides and podcasts on FlickType, visit the FlickType website.

Pros

  • It’s a great compromise for people who enjoy using touchscreen but want an alternative to the standard keyboard, as it still allows you to use the touchscreen keyboard but not have to constantly spend time finding the correct letter.
  • FlickType only requires the use of your iPhone, rather than the use of your voice or any other device.
  • It’s more discrete than using voice recognition or bringing out an external keyboard.

Cons

  • It may not guess what you’re trying to type first time! There will be times when you intend to type one word but that might not be the first word that comes up when you swipe right. You can swipe down with on finger to view further suggestions but there may be times when the suggestion you want doesn’t appear in the list. This will often occur when typing shorter words, especially those words that are similar in terms of the position of letters on the keyboard.
  • FlickType may not be suitable for beginners as there is a lot of gestures to learn, and you will need to have some knowledge of the QWERTY keyboard. This blog only outlined the basic features of FlickType; there are other things you can do such as inserting punctuation, inserting numbers and adding words to the FlickType dictionary, which take time to learn.
  • As of yet, FlickType is not available as a keyboard lay-out that can be used in any app. However, FlickType is being developed as a keyboard lay-out so we will keep you updated as soon as that add-on becomes available!

"There is no perfect solution so the best thing to do is try what you think will work best for you."

So which should I use?

It depends on your ability level, your current situation, and ultimately your personal preference. I use all three: I use voice recognition when I need to be quick and I am in a quiet area, I use the Bluetooth keyboard the most as it is my favourite so I use it whenever I have access to one and I use FlickType when I don’t have my Bluetooth keyboard or when it would be inappropriate to use Siri or dictation.

There is no perfect solution so the best thing to do is try what you think will work best for you. There is so much out there for making typing on the iPhone better; this blog is just a summary of each solution and should hopefully give you some things to consider.

Henshaws offers a range of services to support you to use an iPhone and many other technology products as a visually impaired person. You can find details about these services by visiting our Digital Enablement page or by calling us on 0300 222 5555.

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Alice
Alice is the Digital Communications Officer and is responsible for producing blogs and EBooks for Henshaws Knowledge Village.