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People can now type on phones nearly as fast as on computer keyboards

People hit an average of 38 words per minute when typing on a smartphone with both thumbs, says a study.

Alison DeNisco Rayome Managing Editor
Managing Editor Alison DeNisco Rayome joined CNET in 2019, and is a member of the Home team. She is a co-lead of the CNET Tips and We Do the Math series, and manages the Home Tips series, testing out new hacks for cooking, cleaning and tinkering with all of the gadgets and appliances in your house. Alison was previously an editor at TechRepublic.
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Alison DeNisco Rayome
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Cropped image of teenage girl using mobile phone

People between ages 10 and 19 typed about 10 words per minute faster on phones than people in their 40s. 

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Who says constant texting doesn't pay off? People can now type almost as fast on their smartphones as they can on their computer keyboards, according to a new study from Aalto University, University of Cambridge and ETH Zürich. 

Researchers gave more than 37,000 volunteers an online typing test to assess speed, errors and other factors related to typing on mobile devices. The results? People who typed with two thumbs achieved an average speed of 38 words per minute -- only about 25% slower than people typing on keyboards. 

Our fingers are likely to fly even faster in the future: As people use physical keyboards less, the gap between typing speeds on keyboards and phones is likely to shrink, the researchers said in a press release last week. Meanwhile, study participants reported spending an average of about six hours per day on their phones. One person managed to hit 85 words per minute typing on a phone. 

Read more: Best gaming keyboards under $100 for 2019    

"Such large amount of experience transfers to the development of typing skill and explains why young people, who spend more time with social media, communicating with each other, are picking up higher speeds," Anna Feit, a researcher at ETH Zürich and one of the study's co-authors, said in the release. 

The best predictor of performance was -- wait for it -- whether you type with two thumbs, or one finger (does anyone still do that?). Using autocorrect also increases your phone typing speed, though manually choosing word suggestions doesn't, the researchers found. Age is also a factor, unsurprisingly: People between ages 10 and 19 typed about 10 words per minute faster than people in their 40s. 

"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," said Antti Oulasvirta, a professor at Aalto University, in the release.

Watch this: Does the MacBook keyboard get a bum rap?

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Originally published Oct. 2.
Update, Oct 8: Adds comment from professor Antti Oulasvirta.