I received my Steam Controller last Friday and played with it pretty extensively over the weekend. I haven’t tried a ton of different types of games and I haven’t thoroughly explored all of its settings, so don’t consider this a real review. If you’re not already familiar with what it is and how it’s differentiated from other gaming input methods, I recommend checking out the link above.

Clockwise from top left, the Steam Controller, a Wii U Pro controller, an Xbox 360 controller, and a PS4 controller.

I’m also going to assume assume you’re already familiar with other types of controllers (specifically, dual-thumbstick gamepads and mouse-and-keyboard) and why the mouse is a faster and more precise input for aiming and view control over a thumbstick. That’s not an opinion, it’s a fact, and I could write an entire blog post full of diagrams explaining why that’s true. If you don’t believe me, then some of my conclusions likely won’t apply to you.

One of my most played genres of games (particularly on PC) is first person puzzle/exploration games. I’d lump games like Portal, Talos Principle, and Gone Home into this bucket. For this type of game, the Steam Controller is my new favorite input device. My general setup is to use the thumbstick for movement, and to use the right touchpad in mouse mode with trackball and haptic feedback enabled for aiming. For games which make heavy use of a single “use” or “interact” button (Talos Principle comes to mind here), I can even map that button to a click of the touchpad, so I can do almost everything with just the one thumb. While it doesn’t have quite the precision of a mouse, in this type of game that factor is less important, and the ability to sit on a couch and play the game comfortably is a huge advantage over a mouse and keyboard.

Almost all types of games are more well suited to a specific type of controller. For example, shooters will require the extremely fast and precise aiming of a mouse and keyboard, while racing games are usually designed for the directional control of the thumbstick on a gamepad. For many types of games, the Steam Controller might be the second-best option, but it’s probably never the worst option, and any game I can imagine which was designed for either a gamepad or mouse and keyboard should be at least comfortably playable on the Steam Controller, which is not something I can say for both gamepads and mice and keyboards.

TL;DR: The Steam Controller touchpads are not as fast and precise as a mouse for aiming and view control, but they are very close, and are dramatically better than a thumbstick. In my opinion, the tradeoff between the extra precision of a mouse and the form factor of a handheld controller make the Steam Controller my new preferred input method for games designed for a mouse. While it may not be the best option for a particular genre of game, it’s likely at least a close second for all genres.

Now that you’ve read my conclusion, below you can find a full list of semi-organized thoughts with more detail about individual aspects of the controller.

If you have any specific questions about the Steam Controller or want me to clarify anything from this post, reach out to me at @connor_g on Twitter.

Everything but the Touchpads

  • The build quality is good, not great. It feels a bit plasticky. Some of the button feel is not super consistent, for example, the triggers on my unit sometimes click sharply and other times it’s more or a soft click. Neither of these is better or worse necessarily, just inconsistent.
  • It’s a bit big but not huge. I do sometimes struggle to reach the shoulder buttons, and I end up pressing them with the tips of my fingers instead of the pads of my fingers.
  • The thumbstick and face buttons are placed lower down on the face of the controller, so using those requires stretching your fingers down to reach them. I’ve seen some people on Twitter say that the face buttons are hard to reach with their thumbs, but it’s been okay for me even with long sessions of Rocket League (which uses the thumbstick and face buttons almost exclusively).
  • The top of the thumbtack has a convex surface instead of concave (like the Xbox 360 controller), but it does have a ring of friction-y bumps around it. I haven’t had any problems with my thumb sliding around on it.
  • The face of the controller is a bit recessed below the grips which is very unusual, but didn’t bother me after the first few minutes of use.
  • The “paddle” or “grip” buttons on the underside of the controller where your last two or three fingers rest are a nice addition, and since most games aren’t designed with them in mind (so far, at least) you can use them to remap buttons which are otherwise hard to reach, or to shift the controller between multiple input modes.
  • The haptic feedback is subtle so it feels really nice without being annoying. It’s nothing like the rumble you’re used to in most game controllers, it’s more like a clicking feeling that happens while you use the controllers. It mostly comes into play with the touchpads which I’ll get to later, but it can be used for other things to. For example, when navigating the Steam interface using the physical thumbstick, you feel a haptic click each time your selection moves from one interface item to another. You can configure the strength of the haptics or turn them off entirely.
  • The interface for adjusting controller settings is really well done, and really easy to manage from the Steam overlay in any game. It has a few default control templates available in any game, and you can browse a list of other users’ saved configurations for your current game, ranked by popularity. Even though the controller has only been in people’s hands for a few days, I’m already seeing really good configurations bubble to the surface for most games. And of course, after selecting a configuration (template or from another user) you can customize it as much as you want and save it yourself, privately or publicly.

The Touchpads

  • The touchpads are the main differentiating feature of the Steam Controller and it’s pretty obvious from looking: they’re big and they take center positions on the face of the controller.
  • They’re large enough to have plenty of room to slide your thumbs on, but you’re still able to reach from one side to another without a problem.
  • They’re plastic as opposed to glass which is a bit of a bummer but they still feel nice, and it’s an understandable compromise for a $49 device.
  • They’re raised about a millimeter above the surface of the controller, so your thumb can feel the edge of the touchpad before hitting it but still continue to move until you’re touching the very edge, allowing for use of the full surface.
  • Each touchpad can be physically clicked inwards to act as a button press, but the force required to click them is pretty high, higher at least than most real mice or trackpads.
  • The left touchpad has a plus-shaped d-pad embossed into the surface which is useful for feeling where your thumb is positioned on the touchpad without having to look at it, while the right one is smooth. As a result, the left one is more suited to tasks which require absolute positioning of your thumb on the touchpad (like moving a character in a specific direction) while the right one is suited towards movements which are based on relative position and motion (like dragging your thumb to adjust your aim in a given direction). But the configuration options for each touchpad are identical and you can configure each one any way you want to.
  • Each touchpad can be configured into one of three main modes: d-pad, joystick, and mouse. (The Steam configuration interface uses the term “joystick” to refer to the input device I’ve been calling a “thumbstick”. In my mind, a joystick is something you hold in the center of your hand, but for consistency’s sake I’ll continue to use “joystick” to refer to the input mode and “thumbstick” to refer to the input device.)

D-pad mode

  • In d-pad mode, each cardinal direction on the touchpad maps to one of four buttons (typically either the Up/Down/Left/Right arrow keys, or W/A/S/D for many types of PC games). There are two main configuration options for this: 1. Do you have to click down on the touchpad to activate the simulated button, or just touch the surface of the touchpad? And 2. Can you touch in between the cardinal directions to simulate pressing two buttons at once (e.g., pressing near 45º to simulate pressing Up and Right simultaneously)?
  • To utilize d-pad mode for character movement, you’ll likely want to enable touch-to-press (as opposed to click-to-press) and intermediate directions. I haven’t tried this extensively but it feels nice for games which support d-pad movement in eight directions. A cool bonus here is that the controller gives you a single haptic click when your thumb moves between the eight (or four) direction zones.
  • For using a d-pad to control menus or switching weapons, for example, you’ll likely want to set it to click-to-press and disable intermediate directions, to prevent unintended presses. For this purpose, though, the simulated d-pad is only mediocre. It’s a lot bigger than a real d-pad, and it takes more force to click in than most d-pads, so you can’t “roll” your thumb around on top of it to quickly navigate menus like you can with a real d-pad.

Joystick Mode

  • Joystick mode works a lot like an on-screen thumbstick you might have used in any number of iPhone and iPad games, which is to say, not great. But, as opposed to an onscreen thumbstick, this has a few big advantages: the embossed +-shaped d-pad and haptic feedback really improve your ability to use it without your finger “falling off” or losing the sense of where the center of the simulated stick is. It’s also hugely customizable, maybe more so than any other part of the controller.
  • You can change the shape and size of the center deadzone and outer deadzone (which is not so much a “deadzone” as a “max input zone”), change the acceleration curve as your finger moves from the inside to the outside of the pad, and even set extra keys to bind when your finger reaches the outer zone (for example, if a game as a “sprint” button you can configure the controller to press that button when your finger reaches the outer edge of the touchpad).
  • You can also change whether the simulated thumbstick is positioned at the absolute center of the touchpad, or whether it centers at the position where you initially put your finger on the pad. That option is really nice in iOS games where there’s no way to feel where the center of the stick is, but on the Steam Controller it’s pretty easy to feel the center and the edges of the touchpads so I keep it turned off).
  • This is a better implementation of a simulated thumbstick than you get in most touchscreen games, but still a far cry from an actual thumbstick. If a game is designed for thumbstick input, you’ll probably want to stick with using the physical thumbstick on the Steam Controller.

Mouse Mode

  • Mouse mode is the real winner on the Steam Controller which sets it apart from any other game controller. Mouse mode works a lot like a trackpad on a laptop, where you drag your finger in any direction to move your cursor (or your aiming reticle, view angle, etc.). The touchpads aren’t quite as smooth as Apple’s trackpads but they’re a hell of a lot better than any PC laptop trackpad I’ve ever used (and again, plastic instead of glass).
  • Mouse mode has an optional trackball behavior which, when enabled, causes the cursor to continue moving after you lift your thumb off the touchpad (and stop when you touch it again). This allows you to, for example, make a fast 180º turn by flicking your thumb to one side and then moving your thumb back to the center of the pad to stop spinning. You can customize the simulated friction of the trackball to adjust how quickly the cursor slows to a stop after you release it.
  • When haptic feedback is enabled here, you feel a series of clicks as your cursor is moving, relative to the speed of the cursor. So fast cursor movement causes a fast series of clicks, and slower movement has more delay between clicks. This also applies to trackball mode which is really nice as it allows you to feel how fast your cursor is moving even after you’re not touching the touchpad.
  • You’ll want to spend some time adjusting the precision and speed to find the right balance for you and the type of game you’re playing. When I was trying to do very precise aiming, I did find a tendency for the cursor to wobble a little bit even when I didn’t feel like I was moving my finger appreciably. In addition to adjusting the speed of cursor movement relative to your finger speed, you can also enable an option to have the cursor accelerate faster than (but proportionally to) your finger and adjust the level of this effect. I haven’t played around with it much but this should allow you to have both precise motion for fine aiming but also fast motion for quick turns.
  • You can even set both touchpads simultaneously to control the mouse input, which is nice for games that are primarily cursor-driven. When you’ve got a setup like this, you can make long cursor movements by switching between your two thumbs when one thumb reaches the edge of the touchpad and needs to lift up to reset. I played a little bit of World of Goo and Papers Please using this method (with trackball turned off) and while it’s a far cry from an actual mouse, it’s lightyears better than you could ever do with a traditional controller, and with some practice I bet you could get pretty good at it.
  • One caveat here is that, while a mouse can remain very stable no matter how hard you jam on the keyboard, the Steam Controller tends to shake a bit when you press other buttons on it. In particular, I’ve found that both the shoulder buttons/triggers and the physical click on the touchpad require enough force that it tends to cause my thumb on the touchpad to wobble off it’s aim. I’ve already had more than a few frustrating experiences where I positioned my cursor over the thing I wanted to shoot or the item I wanted to interact with, and in the act of pressing the button to accomplish that task, my cursor fell out of position, multiple times in a row. Even in just a few days, though, it’s happening less and less as I get more experience with the force required by those buttons.
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AuthorConnor Graham

Last year, I wrote a blog post envisioning a future where game purchases on different platforms could be hardware-agnostic and sync your save files, friends, and achievements across all your devices. A recent interview with Gabe Newell of Valve made me start thinking about this again, and prompted me to write the following email to Gabe. There's a short version at the end if you're lazy.

Gabe,

I was just listening to the Nerdist Podcast you recorded with Chris Hardwick, Wil Wheaton, and others and something you said caught my attention. You discussed how the separation between gaming on a computer and in the living room was a very artificial one, and how Valve is trying to break that down with Steam Big Picture and the Steam Box. This is a topic I've thought a bit about in the past, and would love to see come to fruition. But then someone asked you specifically about how you see the separation of mobile platforms, like tablets and smartphones, and while you didn't have a lot to say, it seemed clear that you had some distaste for the way that current stakeholders in the mobile industry (namely Apple) choose to lock down their platforms.

I'm a big fan of Apple, but I'm also a big fan of Valve, and more than anything I'm a big fan of the idea of a ubiquitous gaming experience across my devices. I've paid a lot of close attention to Apple's politics, especialy surrounding it's App Store policies, and I think that I have an idea that would be capable of implementing what you and I are both envisioning, while still working within the rules and regulations that a company like Apple enforces for its platform.

You mentioned using Dropbox on your iPad. It's likely that you've also used third-party iOS apps that rely on the Dropbox API. It's simple for developers to integrate into their apps, and with only a few button presses, you can give any app permission to access some or all of your Dropbox directory, giving you a seamless, cloud-synced way to access files across any app on any platform. Other people have written about the convenience of having the Dropbox API built into iOS apps, and I think Valve could provide a similar service tailored specifically for games.

If Valve were to create a Steamworks API for iOS and Android, it could provide a lot of different functionality, including:

  • Syncing game progress/save files
  • Having a ubiquitous friend network
  • Tracking achievements and unlocks

Here's a workflow I can envision. A user buys World of Goo on Steam for their PC (or Steam Box in their living room). They beat a few levels, but then have to leave the house. While they're out, they open the Steam Mobile app and see that World of Goo is also available on iOS. They click through to the iOS App Store and download the game. An option on the main screen prompts them to sign in to their Steam account. Tapping on it jumps the user out of World of Goo into the Steam Mobile app, which asks them "Would you like to connect World of Goo to your Steam account?" (or, alternatively, sees that the user already has World of Goo for PC on their account and automatically approves the request). Then the app jumps back to the game and the player's progress, achievements, and friend statuses are all available as if they were using Steam on their PC.

That functionality alone would make for a very compelling service, and something I imagine you would love to offer to your users. The idea of playing a game on my PC, and then picking up right were I left off on my iPad is huge. But the even more potentially exciting feature is monetarily driven:

  • Make a game available on all platforms without having to pay more than once
  • Unlock downloadable content without having to pay more than once

Now in the scenario above, the user had to buy World of Goo twice: once from Steam and once from the iTunes App Store. A game purchased first on iOS could be unlocked for free on Steam. Obviously this isn't ideal for Valve, but users are already able to do this through the Humble Bundle store, so maybe it would be fine. But can we unlock a game for free on iOS when it's already been purchased on Steam?

If a developer is willing to work within the "freemium" business model on iOS, we just might be able to. For instance, Telltale's The Walking Dead is free to download on iOS, but requires an in-app purchase to unlock episodes 2-5. If the Steamworks API was integrated, the iOS app could see that the player has already purchased the full game on Steam, and the game's full content would be unlocked for free.

However, this runs into a bit of a gray area with regards to Apple's App Store guidelines. Rule 11.1 states:

Apps that unlock or enable additional features or functionality with mechanisms other than the App Store will be rejected

This implies that such a system would not be allowed. But Rule 11.14 paints a slightly different picture:

Apps can read or play approved content (specifically magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video and cloud storage) that is subscribed to or purchased outside of the app, as long as there is no button or external link in the App to purchase the approved content. Apple will only receive a portion of revenues for content purchased inside the App.

Under the very literal interpretation of this rule, game content would be governed specifically by Rule 11.1, but Apple has always described their app review guidelines as fluid, and with a partner such as Valve I suspect they'd be willing to add game content to the list of specifically approved unlockable content under Rule 11.14. Even if players were still required to purchase a game multiple times on multiple platforms, the ability to seamlessly switch between those platforms and have a single, continuous gameplay experience makes for a very exciting prospect.

Here's the short version: I think Valve appreciates, more than any other company I know of, the idea of a single gaming experience not bound by hardware or platform. Providing a Steamworks API for mobile devices (similar to how the Dropbox API works) would be a great way for Valve to bring that dream closer to reality. Purchasing a game once and having it available on all platforms is the ideal goal, and although it may not be possible with Apple's restrictions, you could at least provide the option of a continuous experience for those gamers who are willing to pay for a game multiple times.

Providing this experience would be a huge boon to gamers who want to switch seamlessly between platforms without having to change their whole gaming experience. I would really appreciate your consideration, and if it's not too much to ask, your feedback on this idea.

From an idealist fan,

Connor

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AuthorConnor Graham

I've been at FactSet Research Systems for about a year and a half and I have nothing but good things to say about everyone I worked with there. But I think of myself as someone who's very product-focused and unfortunately the financial industry isn't one that I feel like I have enough interest in to make a meaningful contribution to.

So a week from today I'm starting a new job at Apple as an Integration Engineer on the Siri team.

You don't have to know me all that well to know what a big fan I am of Apple's products so this probably doesn't come as a huge surprise. Siri is a relatively new product, and voice control in general is a whole new area of computing. I've always been very interested in human-computer interaction, and while there are literally textbooks written on how to design a graphical user interface (that is, a screen with pictures and buttons), voice interaction with computers is a largely unexplored field. Only two companies today (that I know of) are doing any significant work on it, at least in a consumer-facing focus, and I'm really excited to be able to contribute to that in any way that I can.

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AuthorConnor Graham
Tagsapple

Lukas Mathias on scrolling vs pagination in ebooks:

If I’m reading a novel, the experience I’m having should be the book’s story unfolding in my head, not my fingers scrolling the page every few seconds. In this case, good UX design means not interfering with the actual experience the user is having: the book’s story.

Pagination gets out of the way. Read a page. Push a button. Read the next page. Repeat. No needless interference with the actual text being read, no unnecessary interactions that could pull the reader out of the book’s world.

I agree with his point but not his argument. In a reading app, the interface should be as invisible as possible to allow the reader to be enveloped by the story. But to me, pagination causes a lot more interference than scrolling does. He forgot a few steps: Read a page, push a button, wait for the text to refresh, move the focus of your eyes to the top of the page, then read the next page.

On the other hand, when I read in an app like Instapaper using scrolling, the scrolling itself becomes invisible. My finger starts acting subconsiously, moving the text little by little at the same speed as I'm reading, so that the reading process is totally uninterrupted. My eyes never have to move vertically.

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AuthorConnor Graham

I went and saw Wreck-It Ralph yesterday based primarily on the strength of the trailer. My first thought: don't go see a kids' movie on a Sunday afternoon. Believe it or not, there will be a lot of kids there. To compensate for this fact, I think the theater turned the volume up by about 20%. It was quite loud.

My second thought is that I guess I should have had lower expectations for a kids' movie. The trailer hooked me with promises of jokes and references to retro (and modern) video games. A voice in my head kept saying "Why even put these references in the movie if it's targeted to kids? They won't understand half the jokes!" I rationalized it by assuming that, like many Pixar movies, the movie would have enough layers to it to entertain both kids and an older audience.

But the reality is that they used most of the good retro video game references in the trailer to get people like me to come watch the movie and then mostly didn't deliver on the movie I was hoping to see. Instead it definitely felt to me like the kind of movie where they put all the best jokes in the trailers. The bulk of the movie took place inside a fictional game called Sugar Rush (a candy-themed Mario Kart knockoff), and it felt like there were more puns about different types of candy than there were jokes about video games.

Don't get me wrong: it was cute, and fun, and I'm sure kids would enjoy it. If I had kids and had to pick a movie to bring them to I would probably pick this over most other kids' movies. But personally, I was disappointed.

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AuthorConnor Graham

In case you didn't notice, this is the new version of my site. If you subscribed to my blog previously with RSS (for instance, using Google Reader) you'll want to remove the old feed and subscribe to this one.

Anyways, I'm hoping to start writing here more regularly soon. Stay tuned.

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AuthorConnor Graham

There has been some talk recently about the possibility of Amazon announcing their own smartphone. In fact, many expected the phone to be announced at Amazon's press event last week alongside the new Kindle (Fire) models. But does that really make sense? Amazon has pretty explicitly stated that the motivation for the Kindle Fire tablets is to sell other content and services to consumers. They sell the tablets cheap so that you'll buy lots of Amazon Video content and Kindle books and magazines. But will that work on a phone? For the most part, people don't like to watch movies and TV shows on their phones. Very few people read books on their phones, and magazine-style content is almost totally out of the question. Even the Amazon App Store, which has a very limited selection compared to Google Play or the iTunes App Store, probably isn't a big business for Amazon since the most popular apps are usually the free ones.

There is of course music. Amazon has tried for a while now to push their Cloud Drive and MP3 Store to only moderate success. Having a phone which depended on these services as its primary source of music would definitely help their adoption, although as more and more people switch to streaming services like Spotify I question the real profitability of Amazon's digital music business as it stands.

I'm not convinced that Amazon really has a good reason to sell and market their own smartphone. Windows Phone has shown us there's barely room in the market for a third platform after Android and iOS, and adding a fourth would only make it more crowded. Unless Amazon has some secret plan for how a smartphone will grow their business, I just don't see it happening.

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AuthorConnor Graham

So over the past 8 months or so I've really gotten in to listening to podcasts. My favorites, for anyone who's interested, are My Brother My Brother and Me, Build and Analyze, The Talk Show, The Besties, and Stuff You Should Know. I love listening to podcasts while driving. I have between an hour and 90 minutes of commute time per weekday (total, not each way). Unfortunately, the reason I like listening while driving in particular is the same reason that I don't enjoy listening to podcasts in almost any other context.

Listening to podcasts keep my ears entirely occupied and keeps my brain about 40% occupied.

Let me explain what I mean by that. When I'm listening to a podcast, I can't be listening to anything else. I mean, I can obviously, but then I'm not really listening to the podcast. That should be pretty self-explanatory. As for my brain, it's easy to listen to a podcast and absorb the information in it without "focusing" on it. However, if I'm doing something that requires any serious mental capacity, it makes listening to a podcast pointless, because I'm no longer able to listen to what's being said and absorb the information. I should also point out that I find it impossible to read (more than a few words at a time) and focus on a podcast. When I read I'm "listening" to my internal voice and that makes it difficult for my brain to process the external audio as anything more than noise.

The consequence of this is that in most situations, I get extremely bored listening to podcasts. If I'm just sitting down listening to a podcast I get bored from a lack of visual and haptic sitmuli. In other words, I like moving my hands and I like looking at things. Both of those senses are stimulated when I'm reading and when I'm playing video games, and one of them is stimulated when I'm watching TV or movies, but both are idle when listening to podcasts.

That's why listening while driving is so great. Driving requires me to be doing things with my hands, and looking at things, all without requiring serious mental effort. Playing solitaire is actually another great one--I have to use my hands and look at things but not really think about anything or hear anything. Cooking is another good example but I really don't do much of that. Working out is okay, but when I'm working out I prefer to have something exciting or motivating to listen to.

So anyways, those are my thoughts on podcasts. If you have any recommendations for what to do while listening let me know on Twitter.

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AuthorConnor Graham

Really quick post today because I had an idea that was too long to usefully express on Twitter: If I buy a game on a digital download service, and that games gets ported to other digital download services, I should get access to it on all of them.

  • If I buy World of Goo on WiiWare, I should get it for free on Steam.
  • If I buy Alan Wake on Steam, I should get it for free on Xbox Live.
  • If I buy Bastion on Xbox Live, I should get it free on the Mac App Store.
  • If I buy Plants vs Zombies on the Mac App Store, I should get it free on iOS.
  • If I buy LostWinds on iOS, I should get it free on WiiWare.

etc.

Now before you go pointing out the obvious, I know this will probably never happen for a lot of reasons, the most obvious of which are:

  • It would require a shared backbone of sorts to manage purchases across marketplaces.
  • Developers often want to add special features to a game based on the platform it's on.
  • The curators of each marketplace have no incentive to give games away for free.

On the other hand...

  • If such a system existed, gamers would be more likely to buy a game that took advantage of it than one that didn't.
  • In general, if someone buys Game X on Platform A, they're probably not going to buy it again, so giving it away for free on Platform B isn't much of a loss.
  • If a particular gamer buys a game on Platform A, which is his favorite platform, and finds out he can also play it on Platform B, he might be more likely to try Platform B and start buying games there instead.

I think this would be a really amazing system, especially if the games could somehow transfer your scores, achievements, save files, etc. across platforms. Like I said, it'll probably never happen.

A man can dream, though... A man can dream.

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AuthorConnor Graham

So I got my new iPad a few days ago (it's fantastic) and it's reconfirmed a problem I remember having with the iPad 2. By far my biggest gripe with the design is the speaker which, due to the tapered back edges of the iPad, directs the bulk of the sound away from you. But nearly as annoying as that is my issue with the on-screen keyboard. Don't get me wrong--for the most part I really like it. In fact, I'm typing on it right now. But when iOS 5 came out, they added a feature where you can pull the keyboard apart into two smaller half-keyboards, so that you can hold the iPad in both hands and thumb-type like on an iPhone.

iPad split keyboard in portrait mode.

Because you can rotate the iPad into either portrait or landscape mode, it's easy to thing of the iPad keyboard as having four "modes": standard portrait, standard landscape, split portrait, and split landscape.

Personally, I love standard landscape. It's nearly as big as a full keyboard and thanks to iOS's autocorrect I can type on it nearly as fast as a physical keyboard. Split portrait is good too, because you can hold the iPad in your hands and type like you would on an iPhone (which I've also gotten quite good at with practice).

Unfortunately, the other two keyboards, in my opinion, are total crap. The standard portrait keyboard is far too small to type normally on, and far too large to effectively hunt-and-peck on. And when using the split landscape keyboard, the two keyboard halves are so far apart that my eyes have to dart left and right to follow what my thumbs are doing, which slows down typing by a lot and makes it very hard to focus on what you're actually writing.

See what I'm getting at? In landscape, standard is great and split is terrible. In portrait, split is great and standard is terrible. Unfortunately, when you switch from portrait to landscape (or back) the keyboard retains its current standard/split status.

So Apple, when you're working on iOS 5.1.1 or 5.2 or even 6, just add a switch in the keyboard settings somewhere that lets us control the splitting of the keyboard based on the rotation.

And fix the damn speaker already.

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AuthorConnor Graham