Fast fingers: Aalto researchers track smartphone typing speeds

For the fastest typing speeds, researchers say use two thumbs and turn on auto-correct. 

File picture of woman using smartphone / Credit: iStock

How quickly can you type a message on your smartphone?

Researchers at Aalto University found that typing speeds on phones are almost reaching the same speeds as a traditional computer keyboard – with one person managing 85 words per minute with their fingers on a smartphone!

There’s also a clear divide between young people who are ‘digital natives’ and an older generation who had to learn typing as a new skill.

“We are seeing a young generation that has always used touchscreen devices, and the difference to older generations that may have used devices longer, but different types, is staggering” says Professor Antti Oulasvirta from Aalto University.

“This is a type of motor skill that people learn on their own with no formal training, which is very unlike typing on physical keyboards. It is an intriguing question what could be achieved with a careful training program for touchscreens” Professor Oulasvirta says.

Who types fastest? 

The Allto University researchers, who worked together with colleagues at universities in Cambridge and Zurich to study the typing habits of 37,000 people of all ages, in 160 countries.

And they came up with some surprising results.

People who type with two thumbs achieve on average 38 words per minute on their smartphones, which is only 25% slower than typing on physical keyboards.

Researchers reckon the gap between speeds on the two different devices will even narrow in the coming years as people get more proficient at typing on mobile devices, and less used to using a traditional physical keyboard.

Auto-correct also offers a clear benefit to typing speeds but the study finds word completion does not help.

Most users prefer some kind of intelligent support from their smartphone, with only 14% of people typing without auto-correct, word suggestion or gesture typing.

Age makes a difference as well – young people between 10 and 19 type about 10 words per minute faster than people in their 40s.

For the fastest typing speeds, researchers say use two thumbs and turn on auto-correct.