Mind & Body

The Average Phone Typing Speed Is Catching Up to the Keyboard

Since time immemorial, older generations have worried about how new technology is affecting the youth. Current tech is no exception. Will hours and hours spent tapping away on smartphones turn kids today into lonely, anxiety-ridden narcissists? Nope, according to the latest science — but it sure is making them speedy typers.

I Declare a Thumb War

If you're of a certain age, you no doubt remember the laborious challenge of typing out even super-short messages on your flip phone. But these days, you're probably pretty competent at writing even a decently sized email on your phone pretty quickly. The findings of a new study back that up — and show that kids raised on smartphones are shockingly good.

The new research out of Europe used an online typing test to analyze the typing speed of 37,000 people from 160 countries on both smartphones and computer keyboards. It came to a shocking conclusion: These days we're almost as fast at typing on our phones as we are on our laptops.

"We were amazed to see that users typing with two thumbs achieved 38 words per minute on average, which is only about 25 percent slower than the typing speeds we observed in a similar large-scale study of physical keyboards," commented study co-author Anna Feit.

Which isn't to say that some people can't type way faster on a traditional keyboard. If you aced touch typing in school or have worked as a secretary for decades, you can probably knock out 100 words a minute on a computer or typewriter. But most of us are nowhere near that fast. And when it comes to the average Joe, smartphone speed is closing in fast on keyboard speed.

And if a particular average Joe happens to be a member of Gen Z, his texting speed is likely to make your jaw drop. The researchers found young people aged 10 to 19 managed 10 more words a minute than those in their 40s. The researchers called the difference "staggering." One texting hero measured as part of the study even managed 85 words a minute on a phone.

So while the latest research doesn't suggest that phones are ruining the mental health of a generation as some alarmists have claimed, our devices are still changing us. It's just that they're changing our thumbs more than our brains, and it appears to be all for the better.

3 Tips for Becoming a Texting Dynamo

Besides showcasing the incredible manual dexterity of kids these days, the research also made a few suggestions for those of us who haven't naturally transformed into texting speed demons quite yet and want to brush up our skills. First, go with the two-thumbs technique. The study was definitive that those who used only their thumbs to type were significantly faster than those who tried to get other fingers involved.

Two, rely on autocorrect. According to the data, enabling autocorrect also significantly increases typing speed (though you will run the risk of the occasional hilarious and/or mortifying autocorrect fail).

Finally, don't use predictive text. You'll end up spending more time evaluating the options your phone suggests than you would have spent just typing your intended message.

So limber up those thumbs, tinker with your settings, and put in teenager-level practice time, and you should we able to whip up messages on your phone nearly as fast as you can on a keyboard. You can even track your progress with the typing test the researchers used for the study. Good luck!

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Gen Z might be rockstars with their thumbs, but they still face challenges out there in the digital world. For help, check out "Social Media Wellness: Helping Tweens and Teens Thrive in an Unbalanced Digital World" by Ana Homayoun. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale.

Written by Jessica Stillman November 7, 2019

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