Because editing text requires the most precise cursor control of any iPhone function, arrow keys would revolutionise writing on the iPhone with the on-screen keyboard
Being a millimetre or two out when you’re poking your finger at a game sprite is rarely enough to ruin your game. But if you’ve typed wont instead of won’t, and your iPhone hasn’t autocorrected your mistake because wont is a word, sticking the apostrophe in before the W or after the O just won’t work.
iOS4, the current iPhone operating system, relies on a magnifying glass system to place a cursor in text. First, you poke at the portion of the screen where you’d like the cursor to go. Then you wait. It takes a second or so for the magnifying glass to activate, most likely so people won’t accidentally set it off every time they brush their fingers across the screen. These seconds can drag on for years when you have a lot of editing to do and you’re right in the flow of writing.
Finally, the magnifying glass appears, enlarging the text so that you can focus on dragging the cursor where you need it. Usually, the cursor overshoots the area you’re aiming for, and you have to grit your teeth, maintain pressure and drag your finger back, while feeling frustrated at all the time you’re wasting. If you accidentally release pressure, perhaps if you’re on a bus and it hits a bump in the road, the magnifying glass will disappear, and you have to go through it all again.
There’s a simple solution: arrow keys. There’s no wait with arrow keys. Simply press them and the cursor moves immediately, with character-by-character accuracy.
Unfortunately, arrow keys aren’t part of the official iPhone on-screen keyboard. There’s an app called 5-Row QWERTY Keyboard, which adds a top row of number keys to the on-screen keyboard, and a secondary keyboard with arrow keys. But it only works on jailbroken iPhones. There’s no chance of an official arrow key app, according to programmer Brice on Elance.com, when I tried to get one made in July 2010, because such an app would go against the SDK agreement.
If I’m wrong about that, and Apple has changed their minds since then, please let me know!
Until Apple comes to their senses, there is a way to get arrow keys onto your iPhone without jailbreaking your iPhone. Just use a Bluetooth keyboard.