The split keyboard was an exciting development when I first saw it because it put a focus on thumb typing while holding the device, which is something the iPhone and its ilk have trained me to do very well.
Unfortunately, the bezel on the iPad 2 kept me from easily reaching the inner-most keys, and the weight still killed my wrists after more than a few minutes of typing.
In contrast, typing on the iPad mini is far more enjoyable to me. Landscape mode is too small to accomodate more than two fingers at a time, so I’ve turned into a hunt-and-peck typist to adapt. This forces me to slow down my typing, and the smaller keyboard means there’s ultimately less surface to travel between taps. It’s fast, easy, and comfortable.
Using the split keyboard on the iPad mini is easy enough that I don’t mind typing out quick notes while sitting on the train. I tend to move the keyboard about halfway up the screen, the device tilted almost 90-degrees, so that everythingn stays balanced in my hands. I won’t type large notes like this and there are still apps that aren’t optimized to display content alongside the split keyboard, but it’s good enough for quick Google searches and iMessaging without having to put the iPad down.
The only slightly awkward keyboard is the regular portrait keyboard. The original iPad mini commercial shows a person holding the base of the device and thumb typing. It’s true that the keyboard is actually quite comfortable this way, but when I first tried it out, the keys were simply too far down for me to comfortably tap while holding the device. It has everything to do with how the weight is distributed. But what I had forgotten was that you can raise both keyboards on the iPad. You simply hold the dismiss key on the bottom-right corner to pull the keyboard up from the bottom of the screen, which will also end up splitting the keyboard in the process. Once the keyboard is at the proper height, tap and hold on that same dismiss key until the options to “merge” or “dock and merge”. I made it a habit on the iPad 2 to always choose the latter, but choosing the former will merge the keyboard even while it’s halfway up the screen (as shown in the main screenshot).
Typing on the iPad 2 was something I always wanted to do because it seemed so incredibly simple. I loved the idea of having a thin device that I could unpack, wake up, and start writing on (without any accoutrements). I tried extensive touchscreen typing every couple of months during my iPad 2 ownership, but it just didn’t pan out for me.
I’ve been typing on the mini for a few weeks now, and it really is far more comfortable. I was a little worried about how much I’d really be able to be write when I first purchased this device, but after these last few weeks, I can honestly say that typing on this 7.9″ touchscreen is a joy.