The Fastest Way To Text Is Something You've Probably Been Doing For Ages

A woman reads from her phone in bed.

In the age of technology, most of us don't just type on a keyboard anymore, but also on smartphones, and other touchscreen devices. Now, new research suggests that the technique people use to type has a big impact on their speed. As you might have guessed, the younger generation have an advantage when it comes to touchscreens, and using two thumbs to type on your smartphone is best when comes to maximum words per minute.

New research by Aalto University, University of Cambridge and ETH Zürich studied the typing skills of 37,000 participants across 160 countries, to see the speed differences between smartphone typing and keyboard typing. The short typing test asked participants to read through the sentence, then type it out as fast and as accurately as they could. It also recorded the way in which they typed.

Even with only one or two fingers, the study found that people type around 70% as fast on mobiles as on desktop keyboards. And the average typing speed for participants was 36.2 words per minute with 2.3% uncorrected errors.

The study shows there's a generational gap when it comes to typing speed, with young people aged 10 and 19 being able to write 10 words per minute more than adults in their 40s. According to Alalto University News, one of their professors, Antti Oulasvirta said this could be because younger generations have grown up with touch screens, they said: “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.” Yet this younger age group also spent less time on their mobile compared to people ages 20-39.


Using your thumbs and autocorrect on smartphones also speeds up the rate of words per minute with only 12.7% of participants using their right thumb and less than 3% using for all other hand postures. Anna Feit, one of the co-authors of the study and a researcher at ETH Zürich said: “We were amazed to see that users typing with two thumbs achieved 38 words per minute on average, which is only about 25% slower than the typing speeds we observed in a similar large-scale study of physical keyboards.”

And while typing on smartphones is still slower than typing on a keyboard, the gap between the two is becoming smaller. “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” says Anna Feit.

Most of the participants said they spent six hours on their phone and were in their early 20s, which, as Feit explains, correlates to speedy typing. “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.”

So, if you want to be even quicker on your mobile, the research suggests that typing with your thumbs and switching on autocorrect on your smartphone will help.