People Are Now Texting Almost as Quickly as They Type on a Keyboard

Unsurprisingly, the younger generation are the speediest texters.
Fabienne Lang

If you're over 19 years old, chances are you type more slowly than teenagers. Ten words per minute more slowly, to be precise. 

A new study carried out by researchers from Aalto University in Finland, Cambridge University in England, and ETH Zürich in Switzerland has discovered that the speed in which we type on our smartphones is becoming faster and faster. It's now almost the same speed as the typing we do on our computer's keyboard.


The study

The study, the largest one to date, was carried out on over 37,000 participants. Each and every one of them took an online test that compared their texting speed to their keyboard typing speed. 

Interestingly, but not necessarily surprising, the research showed that the 'typing gap' between the speed of texting and typing on a keyboard, is diminishing.

Another interesting fact the research found out is that 10 to 19-year-olds type approximately 10 words per minute faster than anyone else. 

People Are Now Texting Almost as Quickly as They Type on a Keyboard
Instructions for a typing test. Source: TypingMaster

This younger generation grew up with touch screen devices and smartphones, so this isn't such a surprise. Older generations have been typing on keyboards and smartphones for longer, however, due to the high turnover and changes in devices over the years, their ability to type as quickly is not on par with teenagers. 

The main finding, though, is that typing speeds between texting and keyboard typing is decreasing in general. 

"We were amazed to see that users typing with two thumbs achieved 38 words per minute (WPM) on average, which is only about 25% slower than the typing speeds we observed in a similar large-scale study of physical keyboards," said Anna Feit, a researcher at ETH Zürich and co-author of the study. 

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Feit continued, "While one can type much faster on a physical keyboard, up to 100 WPM, the proportion of people who actually reach that is decreasing. Most people achieve between 35-65 WPM."

In all of their research, the fastest speed the researchers saw on a touchscreen was from someone who was able to type 85 words per minute — a remarkably speedy achievement. 

How did the researchers carry out the study?

The researchers asked the tens of thousands of volunteers to carry out a test on, an online typing test. 

The test simply consists of trying to type as quickly as possible via touchscreen, then via keyboard. 

People Are Now Texting Almost as Quickly as They Type on a Keyboard
Part of the typing test. Source: Aalto University

The team recorded the keyboard strokes as the participants transcribed different sentences. The researchers were able to monitor their typing speed, errors and other factors linked to typing behavior. 

Most participants were women in their early twenties from the U.S. However, the study also encompassed people of all ages and from more than 160 different countries

Two thumbs, or an index finger?

Another variant to typing speed was whether participants used two thumbs while typing, or just one finger

It turns out that over 74% of people type with two thumbs, and are indeed faster when typing. 

Furthermore, when people use autocorrect, they also type more quickly than those who choose to spell each and every word out.

People Are Now Texting Almost as Quickly as They Type on a Keyboard
Two thumbs vs. one finger texting. Source: terimakasih0/Pixabay

"The given understanding is that techniques like word completion help people, but what we found out is that the time spent thinking about the word suggestions often outweighs the time it would take you to type the letters, making you slower overall," said Sunjun Kim from Aalto University.

Kim continued, "Most users used some type of intelligent support. Only 14% of people typed without auto-correction, word suggestions, or gesture typing."

So, to increase your typing speed, use two thumbs, and enable autocorrect. Try the test out yourself here and find out your own typing speed. 

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