Fastap: The best keypads are the simple ones

Fastap adds 26 letter keys to a standard mobile phone keypad, without making it larger or harder to use -- and we should see handsets by the end of the year

Using a mobile phone to write a text message or email can be slow and frustrating. Even new smart phones that feature full Qwerty keypads don't seem that easy to use, and they barely fit in your pocket.

Keypad technology is quickly becoming critical to the overall mobile phone experience. As more and more gadgets are crammed into phones, people need an easy way to input information, but the market is full of devices that don't work as well as they should.

Digit Wireless may have come up with a solution in the form of an innovative technology called Fastap. It's a new keypad layout that has slightly raised letter keys at the corners of the number keys. Unlike more complicated or ambitious solutions , it includes individual keys for every letter from A to Z and the numbers 0 to 9, but organises them in a way that's not only compact but also easy to use and faster than predictive text. Fastap was announced back in 2001 but the first handset didn't come out until 2004.

Fastap is the brainchild of David Levy, the head of portable device ergonomics at Apple computer for five years. So far it has been licensed to LG, which has made handsets featuring Fastap keypads for Canada and the US. Digit Wireless says other mobile companies are also going to get involved very soon. Crave hopes they do because Fastap really works and is a step in the right direction for straightforward mobile hardware interfaces.

Up until now there's been very little news about UK availability, but we spoke to Mark Connon, chief executive officer of Digit Wireless, and he hopes we'll be seeing handsets with Fastap in the UK by the end of 2007. In the meantime, check out our Fastap keypad for mobile phones video for a sneak preview. -AL

 

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