The iPhone’s f’d up keyboard - Macenstein

The iPhone’s f’d up keyboard

Above: Room for a 4th?

I realize we iPhone users are supposed to be well-off, but it seems a little odd to me that I don’t have the ability to type the “¢” symbol on my iPhone if I should want to (not that I would ever want to dirty my hands dealing with such plebeian currency, of course).

In fact, as I flicked through the iPhone’s various text input screens this morning trying to tell a friend I saw something on eBay for only 45¢, I realized it is missing some of the more commonly used symbols (to me, anyway) while giving priority to symbols I never use, such as the “Â¥” currency symbol.

Now, I realize everyone uses their iPhone differently, and perhaps there are many US-based iPhone users who use the ¥ symbol on a daily basis, but I have to assume they are in the minority. It is far more likely to me that a US-based iPhone user would want access to the the ¢ sign over the ¥, and, dare I say it, even the £ and €.

The Problem

Above: Why is Apple wasting this space?

As you can see above, the problem with the iPhone’s keyboard is that despite lacking several necessary text characters, Apple has inexplicably decided to make the bottom row between screens 2 and 3 the same, with their shared ” , . ? ! ‘ ” lineup instead of sticking a couple of new characters in there.

If for some reason Apple has done this to serve as a placeholder for future text characters, I have some suggestions.

In some cases having a dedicated text character is not simply an issue of increasing speed while typing. I may be able to type in the word “cents” faster that I could navigate to a brand-new 4th input screen and select the “¢” symbol, but some words just look wrong when spelled out. Another good example for this is typing out “degrees” instead of “Ëš”. If I want to tell someone it is 85Ëš here, I shouldn’t have to write “85 degrees”. And I can’t even tell you how many times I have run into this “degree problem” when having to explain various geometry problems to people when using my iPhone.

Apple already has a system in place for revealing some hidden characters. An update or two back, Apple added accented text to the iPhone’s keyboard – simply hold down the letter “E” and in a moment various accented versions will appear. But hold down the “$” symbol? Nothing.

Of course, while holding down the “$” to bring up “¢” makes sense, not all other characters lend themselves to such a straight forward association, and that is why I think that if Apple feels it needs to double up those ” , . ? ! ‘ ” characters for some reason, then they need to add a 4th character screen for these forgotten characters. Chief among them on my list would be “¢, Ëš, –, ©,â„¢,®, ≤,≥, and ‰”, but there are of course others, and I would like to hear your suggestions.

Virtual greatness

The great thing about the iPhone is that unlike a traditional phone with “real” buttons, the amount of “virtual” buttons on the iPhone is limitless (and don’t tell me iPhone users would be too confused by a 4th character screen – if they can handle 3, they can handle 4). The iPhone’s software is already custom tailored to the country it is sold in (notice in the top picture how the location of the £ and $ are switched on the UK iPhone vs the US one) so perhaps just grouping the various international items on a separate “International” screen would be a good start, freeing up space on earlier screens for a few more commonly used items.

Obviously Apple expects some degree of serious work to be getting done on the iPhone – not simply teen texting (why else would they have included the “•” bullet symbol for crying out loud?) and I’m sure they did a bunch of research to decide what keys are and are not important to the majority of users, but still I think they were a bit hasty in their decision to ax some important characters while doubling up on others. Here’s hoping for a keyboard update in version 2.

Thanks to faithful UK Macenstein reader abooth for the iPhone grabs.

24 Responses to “The iPhone’s f’d up keyboard”
  1. Bride of Macenstrein says:

    the german schloss character B, i think thats its name, can be gotton by holding down the S key as in your other examples.

  2. Who dares impersonate the Bride of Macenstein? My wife will kick your ass.

    Int hat example, I was trying to go for the “beta” symbol.
    -The Doc

  3. I think that at least as financial markets go, the “Yen” symbol gets used all over the business world nearly daily throughout the country.

    Knowing Apple, there most likely has been studies done in their labs regarding “most used” “most favored” etc. to go along with “easiest to read fonts” and the like.

    I can assure you they’re not on the lookout just to annoy *you*.

  4. Dave-O says:

    Totally agree on the degrees; but even on full keyboards, you’ll find people typing things like “that’s just my $.02.” The upside-down question mark is a hidden character available by holding down the right-side-up question mark. The Apple symbol isn’t sufficiently standard (every read a web page about the Apple TV on a PC?).

    That’s just my 2¢

  5. Yeah, I think I caused some confusion in that graphic. I was just trying to go nuts with the Apple symbol (oddly enough Photoshop wouldn’t let me paste in the “command” symbol”)

    I think I’ll take that out.

    -The Doc

  6. Devilsh says:

    Wait, I can’t even find these characters on my regular keyboard! There is a conspiracy afoot!!!

  7. Joey says:

    The cent sign isn’t on a standard Mac keyboard, or a standard Windows keyboard either. Last time I saw a keyboard with a cent sign was on an IBM Selectric. Did the Apple II or the original IBM PC have a cent sign on the keyboard? Not sure but I don’t think so. Dude! Its a seventies thing, and like disco, Nixon, bell-bottoms, afros for whitey, leisure suits, platform shoes, Foreigner, Frampton, Lee Iacocca and John Delorean, its gone and it ain’t coming back. Get over it.

  8. Richard says:

    I just want an iPhone.
    bloody Australia.

  9. Chloë says:


  10. Bob says:

    Not trying to be snippy, but could you not just type 40c

  11. Chris says:


    I wish we could “digg” comments out here because yours was awesome! Exactly what I was thinking when I saw this rant, but expressed much more eloquently.

  12. T-dub says:

    you typed out more characters whining about the lack of these symbol keys than you would by typing out the full words for “cents” and “degrees” every time you need to use it in your entire lifetime. The value of this rant does not justify its existence.

  13. Dave says:

    @Joey, the symbol isn’t on your keyboard, but it’s as easy to type as ñ, ö, or é. Just press command-$.

  14. Dave-O says:

    @T-dub, perhaps Macenstein is a little more selfless than you are. With millions of iPhone users out there, I think it’s fair to say the total population might use these characters often enough to justify his rant by your calculations.

  15. Jan says:

    What annoys me most on these virtual keyboards is the omission of the “tilde” ~ on the URL-keyboard (which is different from that used in texting or emailing.

    I have two separate homepages that use the ~ in the addressing myself and cannot just type in the address in Safari. VERY annoying if you want to acces a fie on your webspace since you can’t store it on your iPhone or iPod touch…

    I actually ended up sending myself an email in my iPod so I could click the URL’s, only to bookmark them.
    Works for frequently used URL’s, but not in the field…

  16. Apple Repair says:

    Is there a hack or something out there that can give me all my characters?

  17. Apple Repair says:

    Objection, your honor. Irrelevancy.

    I don’t care what the original typewriter had. This is the age of Texting. I for one, am the undisputed 3-time WORLD “Text Messaging Champion” and I want my cents symbol!!!

    And platforms are back!

  18. Alex says:

    I really think the degree symbol should be added. It only makes sense that a business traveler who owns an iPhone would wanna text his/her spouse or peers and most likely talk about the weather at the city he or she is.

  19. Duncan says:

    These issues become pretty important if you’ve signed up for a webservice with a username that includes the ° symbol, as I did just before discovering it’s not on the iPhone—so now I can’t log in.

    Turns out you *can* get the ° sign at least, if you activate the Japanese keyboard—not the QUERTY one, but the other one. Worked for me today. Probably other symbols there too. (Settings > General > Keyboard >)

    Apple could make an optional “extended symbols” keyboard, that you can turn on under International…

  20. Alex says:

    Yes, I really wish there was a way to type the degrees symbol on my iPhone. I’d show you what I mean, but I can’t since I’m typing this on my iPhone.

  21. Mark J Musante says:

    I just worked this out recently, but I see Duncan beat me to it. If you want to see the step-by-step method of enabling the degree symbol, take a look here:

  22. leon says:

    Read the manual!

    To get the degree symbol hold your finger on zero for a second. The same goes for the alphabet letters to get the accented ones.

    So the fact that the dot and comma are repeated is actually very handy as you often need them togeather with the other symbols and thus don’t need to switch layouts.

  23. Derek bolander says:

    I also think the pricing war has to do with precedence and timing. In 2003 when Apple began selling music, the music industry didn’t know what to expect and so they let Apple call the shots in terms of pricing à la carte items and albums at $.99 and $9.99 respectively. When the success of the store surpassed the wildest expectations of everyone the music industry became anxious at the level of control they ceded to Apple.

    Then when the second revolution rolled around- movies, this industry wasn’t willing to play by Apple’s rules. So the film/tv industry established a strawman- Amazon (and NetFlix) They gave Amazon better pricing on movie purchases and rentals than Apple. The music industry caught on and began offering music at a cheaper wholesale rate to Amazon too and to top things off didn’t require Amazon to sell music with DRM.

    Third revolution- Books. Apple decided to break the log jam. They went to publishers and offered to carry their books for a higher price than their current cartel- Amazon. This will give Apple a huge library, unlike AppleTV. Once iPad is a huge success, it wouldn’t surprise me if Apple allows authors to circumvent the publishers more easily and do a direct publish.

  24. John Anthony Kostelac Jr. says:

    Isn’t the hold zero key a degree symbol on the iPhone?
    As in 75°?
    On the other hand I can’t add my 2 cents unless I can spell it. Which is how I got here. I enjoyed the rants.

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