Split Screen Qwerty Revisited – From Our Reader

Here’s a small rant/review of the Split Screen Qwerty Keyboard that comes with Symbian Anna, from our reader, Ali. It’s quite detailed, so do take some time off to read it thoroughly.

As I’m sure all of you know the much awaited and even more delayed Symbian Anna is set to be released for Existing/ previous S^3 owners within the next month (August), although it’s unclear whether NOKIA will opt to dish out early August and make a bunch of you happy, or to hang on to it for a while longer. Either way there have been plenty of change-log releases as well as videos and much more detailing what’s to expect from Anna (e.g. Browser, Portrait Keyboard, Split-screen Text input, new Icons…) Personally the most important update was the keyboard as well as split screen implementation, no need to explain why I assume. So after playing around with Anna on my N8 I’m pleased with some and disappointed with a lot, here’s why (I’ve decided to only focus on the Keyboard as well as Split-screen in this Rant/review).

I’ll try to split this into 3 parts, a general introduction then the good, and finally the bad.

 

Intro:

Symbian Anna brings along with it a new portrait QWERTY keyboard that has 3 rows for characters, one row for spacebar and delete, and a third row for arrows, enter as well as settings. These 5 rows take up about half the screen on my N8, leaving the other half either a gray (theme dependent colored) box or a “live” viewing plane if split screen is available in the particular area.  In landscape mode the characters still fill out 3 rows but the bottom  2 rows of the portrait keyboard (spacebar, delete, return, arrows..) have been merged into a single row = 4 total. (Loads of pics below)

The Good:

  • First off and most importantly split screen makes a HUGE difference in the overall feel of the phone, be it landscape or portrait. Split screen is really nice (when it works- refer to “the bad”) and allows you to actually see what’s going on on your screen instead of the annoying grey text box that would appear before.
  • Info Prompts for any changes in keyboard settings now appear on in the upper corners of the screen (similar to those that appear when changing profiles or connecting to a network), prompts are displayed when text is copied to clipboard or when predictive text is activated/de-activated.

     

  • Copy/Cut/Paste prompts appear immediately when text is selected and somehow seem more user friendly than before.
  • Predictive text actually works now like it should, previously what you typed would stay unless you specifically chose the “correction”, now the default is similar to that of iPhone where the “correction” stays, but you can choose to stick with what you typed by tapping on it. It also comes with a “text correction level” option which can be set to: High, Medium, or Low.
  • Search widget/program is very much improved with the implementation of instant search along with the keyboard/split-screen – this really reminded me of “Nokia Universal Search Beta” which was leaked a while back.
  • Making Calendar events such as meetings is a much nicer experience than before, the ability to view all the details of an event while adding more info makes it much nicer. (Note: Of course Alpha/Numeric keyboard will come up depending on what field is being filled out.
  • The newly renamed “Nokia Maps” was one of the few application-possibly only (Gravity by Janole excluded of course) that had a split screen keyboard before Anna update, the only difference here is the portrait keyboard inclusion.
  • Finally when searching contacts the annoying block ‘letter by letter ABCD’ keyboard that removes each letter after refreshing contact list is gone giving you a normal portrait/Landscape keyboard. (personally I found the old contact search method tiring as there was no constant position for letters as they were being constantly removed or changing position- which made it tiring to search; for me at least)

The Bad:

The bad in Symbian Annas’ new keyboard interface boils down to two points:

1. Inconsistency in Split screen integration. THIS IS A MUST. It’s unbelievably annoying when there is no consistency between UI in different applications be they NOKIA/OVI branded official apps or third party applications that have nothing to do with NOKIA. I don’t understand why the split screen keyboard isn’t hardcoded into the whole S^3 software, it seems to have been added as an afterthought- and once it was decided they enabled it in each application separately. I had planned on making a list of applications/settings where split screen is not available but I gave up after I realized how many there were, but here are some of the essentials:

  • Notes application- how difficult should it be to fix this?? “Notes” is essentially just a keyboard DO IT RIGHT!
  • Most setting prompts such as: Country selection, time, date, networking/Wi-Fi… the list goes on. You still get the same ugly grey backdrop but with a clock.
  • A LOT of third party apps don’t seem to support this split screen at all such as: Whatsapp, Skype, Fmobi.. etc.
  • Even some NOKIA/OVI apps don’t support split screen such as OVI store, Default dictionary…
  • What’s worse than not having a split screen display is having a failed one, for some reason Instant Messaging by Nokia (known as OVI chat) doesn’t seem to be able to handle orientation changes when running a split screen as sometimes the app would be stuck in landscape but displaying a portrait keyboard.
  • Also Swype – which is actually a third party application but NOKIA developed the S^3 version of it hence it’s called Swype By Nokia doesn’t seem to support split screen at all- no matter where it’s running which is  a poor trade off in my opinion (swipe on android runs with split screen fine).

2. The other major problem in Symbian Anna is simply that text selection HAS NOT been improved at all, true the copy/past prompts now appear but it’s just as difficult to select text from a message as there is no draggable bar- like android, or anything else except the difficult to see typing cursor to guide you.  Also Email as well as browser DO NOT support text selection AT ALL (except in fields you enter of course).
In conclusion basically Anna is loads better than PR1.2, BUT (and it’s a big but) unfortunately from a text entry point of view it doesn’t bring S^3 up to par with the competing O.S.s (android/iPhone obviously). All In all it would be fine if S^3 was released like this, but this IS NOT what I expected from a much promised update that’s been delayed well over 8 months now. Bring on Belle.

Note: I’m running what appears to be a final version of Anna on my N8, but whether things will improve before the official release is unclear.

 

That is all that Ali Al-Qudsi had to say. Just in case you too would like to write for us, drop in a line here. Or you can reach out to our Chief Editor on Twitter – @jainrounak. Do let us know your experience below in the comments section.

Rounak Jain

A smartphone addict and a student, Rounak started this blog. Get in touch with him on Twitter @jainrounak or, mail him at [email protected]

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