A word processor that fits in your pocket.

Why Do I Write on My iPhone?

A word processor that fits in your pocket.

A word processor that fits in your pocket.

So why have I starting blogging about writing on my iPhone?

Why should anyone even attempt to write on an iPhone at all?

The (rather blurry) photo on the right shows why.

It’s my writing kit, circa October 2010: a MP-0118+ Bluetooth keyboard (inside the black pouch) and an iPhone 3GS.

The whole package fits into the palm of my hand and weighs an incredible 341g (12 ounces). Only a notepad and pen can match an iPhone for sheer writing portability. But an iPhone, depending on the apps you use, can be a full-featured word processor and much, much more.

I use My Writing Nook, a word processing app that saves documents to the phone’s memory without being prompted and backs them up into the Cloud. This means I’ll never lose my documents, even if I lose my phone, and I can access them from any computer. Email backup, for extra peace of mind, is available at the touch of a button. My Writing Nook has a built-in dictionary and thesaurus, and works with a second app – TextExpander – to give me full autocorrect and spell checking on the fly. This is what you’d expect from a word processing program, such as Word, on a laptop or desktop computer. But while Microsoft Office will currently set you back nearly US$300, My Writing Nook is only US$3.99 and TextExpander US$5.99.

I’ll be straight with you; the MP-0118+ Bluetooth Keyboard is not the fastest keyboard I’ve ever used. To achieve its tiny size, it lacks a designated number and punctuation key row. This means a lot of incorrect keystrokes and hunting and pecking, especially in the beginning. But after five minutes, I was touch typing away on it quite happily. Even the most awkward Bluetooth keyboard is about ten times quicker than using the iPhone’s on-screen keyboard.

Of course, writers need more than just a word processor, and the iPhone can help you there too. If you need to research what you’re writing, the World Wide Web is only a press of the Home button away. You can send and receive emails, listen to music, illustrate your work with photos taken by the camera, or doodles from any one of the hundreds of graphical apps. There are apps for blogging, and recording and editing sound and video for uploading to your blog.

In short, an iPhone can be a useful, portable and inexpensive tool for writers. I’ll be using this blog to explore how I get the most out of my iPhone, especially in terms of getting text in and out, and how you can too.

MP-0118+ Bluetooth Keyboard

MP-0118+ Bluetooth Keyboard

MP-0118+ Bluetooth Keyboard

The MP-0118+ folding Bluetooth keyboard

The MP-0118+ Bluetooth Keyboard was my first folding Bluetooth keyboard. It’s the least expensive near full-sized folding Bluetooth keyboard on the market. (If you find a cheaper one, please let me know!)

Usually sold as a generic Bluetooth keyboard (try searching eBay for ‘folding Bluetooth keyboard’) the MP-0118+ comes with a a small driver CD (which you can cheerfully throw away if you only plan on using the keyboard with your iPhone), a neoprene zippered case, one cheap AAA battery with a working life of roughly three hours (a decent battery will last up to a hundred hours) and a slide-out, folding phone stand.

The MP-0118+ weighs 175g (including the case, stand and battery) takes one AAA battery, and folds up small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Unfortunately, it achieves its small size by making compromises with the keyboard layout. There’s no dedicated number and symbol key row. Instead, numbers are incorporated into the top QWERTY row of letter keys, and can be accessed by hitting the Numlock Num key on the bottom row. Symbols and punctuation are incorporated into the top two rows of the keyboard, and can be accessed by hitting the Punct key on the bottom row. The space bar is oddly corrugated, and divided in half by the central hinge.

If you’re accustomed to touch typing, you’ll be spending the first five minutes feeling for the symbol keys and making lots of mistakes. The single and double quotes, and the colon and semicolon keys are in the correct place. But the up arrow key is where the question mark should be. You can only type a question mark by pressing the Punct key and (of all unintuitive keys) the letter F. The full stop (period) key is very close to the back arrow key, and I often find myself hitting it by mistake. Then I have to stop and move the cursor back out of the word I just typed. The H key on my keyboard is very stiff and sometimes requires a couple of presses before it produces a letter.

Looking back on what I’ve just wrote, I can see I’ve got lots of complaints and that’s really unfair to a keyboard that never really set itself up to be anything spectacular. What matters most is that the MP-0118+ is cheap and it works. Not spectacularly, but it’s still a major improvement over the on-screen iPhone keyboard. It has arrow keys, which are something that a writer really cannot do without, and you can touch type.

The MP-0118+ Bluetooth keyboard isn’t a terrific keyboard, but if you want dabble with writing on your iPhone, it’s the least expensive way to begin.