Am I the only one wanting a keyboard on Apple Watch?

By , May 25, 2016

keyboard on apple watch

Call me crazy or call me what you will, but when I saw Android Wear 2.0 was bringing support for third-party keyboards, I immediately started imagining how useful that would be on my Apple Watch.

Of course the screen is too small to accommodate a keyboard. Heck, it’s already too small to punch in your passcode without missing a tap target. Still, not only do I think there may me a need for it, but I also believe the technology to make this right is now available.

Why the hell would you want a keyboard on your Apple Watch?

There are currently two ways to input text on Apple Watch. You can either use one of the canned replies (if available), or you can use voice dictation. Neither of them are always the best option to me.

Canned replies aren’t available in all applications, and most importantly, those canned replies don’t always offer the right suggestions for what you really want to say.

And dictation… Don’t get me started on that. It’s not that it doesn’t work well, it’s mostly that it doesn’t work reliably. I experience this first hand every single day when I dictate something to my watch and I’m left staring at a black screen, or repeating myself six times for Siri to get that one word right.

Dictating to your watch is also very awkward. The gesture is awkward, and the action of speaking to your wrist comes across as plain weird for someone who doesn’t know exactly what you’re doing. For those who know what you’re doing, they’ll probably label you as a dork, rightfully so, because that’s exactly how I feel every time I speak to my watch.

I’m actually very self conscious about talking to my watch in public places with people around me. Maybe I wouldn’t feel like that if Siri worked reliably instead of making me repeat the same thing over and over again until it gets it right. Sometimes, I just end up defaulting back to my phone to type in a reply, like an animal. I wasted 40 seconds talking to my wrist for nothing hoping no one saw me.

Ultimately, and regardless of the situation, there are just times where canned replies or dictation just don’t do it.

Enters the on-screen keyboard

This is where a keyboard would actually come in handy. It would allow you to quickly type in a message with your own words, without having to rely on Siri to hopefully understand what you’re saying, let alone have an actual connection to a server where it can process what you just dictated.

Obviously we’re not talking about drafting full emails, but rather short blurbs of text such as a Twitter or Facebook updates, an iMessage to a friend, etc.

I understand the screen real estate isn’t very big, but think about how far third-party keyboards have come along. Some of them are very smart and let you be extremely sloppy when inputting text. Take Swype for example, it’s really good at getting correctly what you’re swiping.

If the software can be good (it’s a big “if” of course), then the lack of space on the screen is not as important anymore. Any kind of shortcoming in your swiping or typing can be made up by the keyboard software itself.

I’m really not holding my breath for that to happen on Apple Watch, because despite of the lack of progress made by Apple in this space, it seems the company is betting the farm on dictation when it comes to the primary input method on the device.

All this makes me wonder… Am I the only one wanting a keyboard for Apple Watch?

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  • Marko

    Siri doesn’t speak my language. Do I need to say more?

  • Martynet

    I switch between two languages all the time and SIRI or canned replies are usually in a different language… Sometimes it’s right, sometimes not. I really don’t understand why is it so hard for apple watch to recognize the message’s language… Especially when one of the languages is english.

    • arterius2

      so true.

  • Johnny

    I think they will let the apple watch get a keyboard as soon as a company are willing to show the ppl at apple how to do it.
    Cuz otherwise it will never happen.

  • Yeah its just you. You just have way too much time on your hands.

  • TJ

    Unfortunately it seems people try and turn everything into a PC, now it’s the smartwatch. It won’t be long before we get calls for the Apple Watch to run OS X, have mouse input and feature a USB-C port.

    • csterno

      Agree 100% with this comment. If you can’t use a canned response pull out your phone. All a keyboard would do is frustrate you even more.

    • Shinonuke

      I don’t know about you but I am hoping that, one day, Apple Watch will have a miniature projector, swipe keyboard, camera, all independent phone function w/out need of tethering, and be able to recall my car to my current location.

      I don’t want a smart watch to do only what a watch does.

      • Alan Maris

        right you are. I hope that “some big company” will invent the watch with holographic display which can accommodate phone, watch, computer all in one. this will be the real hit. It doesn’t have to be really small, a bracelet would be ok.

      • Shinonuke

        Can’t wait to be like Batman

  • avd98

    Yes, yes you are.

  • Phil Randle

    Not QWERTY, that would be ridiculous. A keyboard could work but they need to design it in a way that works for smart watches.

    • TechToch

      or just provide both choices qwerty and a smart watch keyboard

  • Keith S

    yes.

  • Smegmatron

    Yes you are

  • Diogo Pires

    For me doesn’t make sense to type on a Apple Watch for a couple of reasons. First, if you’re feeling the “need to type”, it’s because your answer is going to be long and for that, I rather use my iPhone. Also, keep my arm up while I’m typing sounds extremely unconfortable. I like my Apple Watch to reply “OK”, “YES” and “NO”. Everything else, I type on my iPhone.

    Of course this is just my opinion and I understand your point of view but for me, the Apple Watch it is not a device to insert information, only to consult (mostly notifications and health data). And because I love to interact with my iPhone 🙂

    • Shinonuke

      Swiping through the keyboard is a lot easier and faster than typing, at least for me. I loved that feature on the Samsung Galaxy. If Apple have a 3rd party app that function as well as the Samsung Galaxy phones than that would be great. It does take time to get used to.

  • Mark Swain

    No, you aren’t. A keyboard would be great! I often wished I could ‘type’ a reply, because the canned reply hasn’t been right. Swiping your reply would surely work even with the screen size being the size it is.

  • Well, feedback is pretty unanimous…

  • BlackSheep_dsg

    really a keyboard on your watch when you have your iPhone in your pocket, lazy

  • Digitalus

    I feel like the old T9 keyboard could really make a comeback for the Apple Watch. It was pretty easy to work with back in the Nokia days, to the point that people could write full 160 character texts in a just over under 30 seconds, with predictive text features. That seems pretty respectable to me.

  • chjode

    I think you’re the only one with an Apple Watch. I have a Pebble and never considered using it for anything other than glance-able notifications.

  • Tim

    Just no, I can barely hit the numeric correctly.

  • Jurassic

    The image at the top of this article shows exactly why an on-screen keyboard for the Apple Watch doesn’t make sense.

    Take that photo, and reduce it so that the Apple Watch is similar to actual size. Then put your finger tip on the reduced photo. (The end.)

    From all indications, Apple is continuing to work on improving Siri’s accuracy. She has come a long way since Siri was introduced less than 5 years ago. Rumours of an upcoming Siri SDK and Siri-related products indicate that Apple’s AI efforts are a high priority.

    As long as the Apple Watch display remains as small as it is now, using Siri will be the only sensible way to “type” text on the watch.

  • Jonathan

    I don’t want a keyboard, so much as a better text input method. Dictation definitely needs to be more reliable (even just telling you there’s no internet connection would be a start). And the ability to correct words (by tapping on them and speaking them again) would make it much more usable.
    Also the quick replies could be more flexible, maybe have 2 or 3 layers of options. Also the ability to add quick replies using dictation on the watch.
    Also handwriting, a character at a time, while it sounds arduous, would work pretty well I think.

  • JayDee917

    Yes Sebastian, you’re the only one. Lol.

    Maybe a T9 type keyboard could work?

  • TechToch

    Android wear is way better than Watch OS

    • besrate hogsa

      YEAH

  • Yes and No. Of course I’d love to be able to type or swipe a message because the canned messages don’t seem to have quite what I want to say. Most being just a word or two short. The reason I say no is because it wouldn’t feel right cramping a keyboard on it. Both screen sizes are just way too small right now and I’m glad its not even an option for me to get frustrated with.

  • CASEACE79

    I don’t need a keyboard. The Apple Watch needs a lot of work. I need Siri’s voice back. The disconnect is strange. Almost like fine I’ll do it but I’m still not talking to you. And because of it I’ve missed sending texts. Opening any app is frustrating as hell and works 50% of the time. Not to mention doing it over and over your arms get tired so you stop bothering. Needs more options for notifications. Like having all txt go through the watch no matter if your phone is awake or not. There are plenty of times where it would be more convienent to just use the watch but my phone is unlocked in my pocket or on the table. I pretty much use mine only for time, music controls, and Apple Pay.

  • Colin Steiger

    I think that this is the first device that would make the swype keyboard practical. I’ve been trying the swype keyboard for years on several Galaxy models and quite frankly my opinion never changes. It’s pointless and stupid. I can type faster normally. However on that tiny Apple Watch screen this makes a lot of sense as tapping away would probably be pretty difficult, and i certainly am not interested in a 9 keys qwerty