That keyboard has to go!

by editor @ on August 16, 2007

So far there hasn’t been a lot of need to use the “keyboard” on the Apple TV. Its overall interface is well laid out enough that there is hardly any need to do text input. However, you still need to occasionally use it.

Full keyboard

I used the default/full keyboard to input my network settings and that was about it. Even that, selecting letters one by one using the Apple Remote is very tedious on that keyboard. The travel between each letter is so great that it can really tire your thumbs out “typing” simple words.

The layout of the full/default keyboard on the Apple TV leaves much to be desire. The characters are laid out in 4 main rows: upper-case alphabet, lower-case alphabet, numbers + symbols, and the rest of the symbols. You have 26 characters to work with per row; that’s a lot of clicking. If a web browser were to be ported to Apple TV, this keyboard is definitely not suitable for the task.

Small keyboard

You may also have seen the other “keyboard” on the Apple TV, which is used to search for content on Youtube. This keyboard has only 5 characters per line and it is much more efficient. Much less travel/clicking between letters. Apple took out the symbol row and placed a switch button at the bottom to switch to symbols and back. However, this keyboard does not have upper-case letters. There is no need for it here for searching Youtube content. However, for normal typing, you do need upper-case letters too.

It would be nice if Apple can learn from the cell phone manufacturers in terms of the text-input interface. it normally has “buttons” to switch to different keyboard modes. The “modes” include “upper case”, “CAP”, numbers, and symbols. Having the ability to switch between different modes allows the number of characters to be less per row, reducing the number of clicks.

HP Keyboard

I was looking around for a good example for a keyboard interface. I found the keyboard on my HP multi-function printer to be quite close to what I’ve dreamt up. The characters are laid out in 3 main rows with “switch” buttons at the bottom. Though it is not perfect, it is still far superior than Apple TV’s full/default keyboard.

If Apple insists on using the 6-button Apple Remote on the Apple TV, they need to come up with a better text-input interface than the current one.

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  • I really like the text entry mechanism on the Playstation 3: there are a few keyboards to choose from (qwerty, cellphone) for gamepad-typing, both of them support various forms of predictive text entry, and, of course, you can also hook up a USB keyboard if you’re typing a lot.

  • It would seem to me that Apple could easily develop an IR keyboard to work with the ATV just like the remote does now. As a general rule, I can’t stand on-screen keyboards. Fluffy brings up a good example with the Playstation 3, though I find the “keyboard” on the Nintendo Wii to be even better at predictive text. Still, nothing beats a physical keyboard.

  • SuperDuperCruizer

    It would have been nice if the default keyboard had a wrap-around feature on the top, bottom & left side of the layout. Obviously, the right side of the keyboard layout would remain the same to allow the user to move the cursor to select videos found in a search. Why apple engineers couldn’t foresee a need for this during product testing is beyond me.

  • Maraklov

    SuperDuperCruizer – the full size keyboard does wrap around, but its not continuous. If you hold down in a direction it will move across and stop at the end of the line, but if you move again in that same direction it will wrap to the other side. It’s subtle but its there. I agree it might be better to scroll continuously for the advantages of speed. I haven’t tried this with the new YouTube keyboard.

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