E71 v/s E90 v/s T9 – Which Is The Fastest?

E71 QWERTY v. E90 QWERTY v. T9

One of the reasons the E71 was so hotly anticipated was because it brought QWERTY back into the Eseries after quite a while, the last Eseries in the same form factor being the E61i. But because of its size, it created doubts in the minds of a lot of people about its real world usability. I have been a Nseries man for a long time and since it still offers no QWERTY, I became really proficient with T9 and never really felt the need for QWERTY. A few months ago I bought my first Eseries device, the E90 and still found myself using T9 on it more than the internal keyboard. It was just too wide for me, however with the E71 that changed. This in my opinion is the best form factor for a QWERTY device and when coupled with predictive text and auto correct, it makes for a deadly combo.

This post pits the E90 and a T9 based device, against the E71 and we try and find out which is the best text entry solution.

Sample Sentence - I

In order to find out which was the fastest in the real world usage, where we will regularly need to input words, numbers, names and so on, I created the above sample sentence which takes care of most of these things. The sentence was written five times on each device and the corresponding seconds it took me to complete were recorded. This was done to try and get a better picture and guard against extreme results. Here is how each of the devices, namely the E90, E71 and the N95 performed.

(Note: I was going to do this test with the N78 as the T9 device but dropped it because it does not represent the regular T9 keypads we normally find).

THE N95 I pride myself on my T9 speeds and the trusty N95 didn’t let me down. It took me an average 81 seconds to key in the 40 words. (Note: The smiley and symbol have been counted as a word)

THE E71 – I have large thumbs and the smallish keypad was always going to be a problem, but with auto correct holding fort I was faster than I expected – averaging at 79.2 seconds for the sentence. For anyone who’s thumbs are any smaller, expect this figure to be much lower.

The one thing I have learnt from this exercise is that predictive text is not always useful when you need to type fast and infact, sometimes becomes a problem. What is needed is auto correct and I’d like it if there was an option to turn off predictive text while keeping auto correct.

THE E90 – The Eseries Flagship with its large keys and dedicated number buttons should have enjoyed a distinct advantage here, but due to frequent spelling errors and the not so efficient spacebar, it 81 seconds on an average. This is inspite of the fact that after typing on the smaller E71, my speed on the E90 has increased.

Sample Sentence - II

The above test included all sorts of variables, but there are times when we only input text, for example while writing somebody an email. To give an accurate description of how these devices would perform when only text entry was an issue, I carried out another test with the same parameters as above.

THE N95 – It took me an average 42.8 seconds to fire in the 26 words. Since there were no numbers or names, T9 had no problems whatsoever.

THE E71 – The E71 too averaged exactly same as the N95 at 42.8 seconds .

THE E90 – Surprisingly the E90 took slightly longer at about 43 seconds . Since there were no numbers involved it didn’t enjoy any particular benefits, moreover the lack of spelling/auto correct support also didn’t help either.


I have used the N95 for almost 10 months, the E90 for 3 months and the E71 for about two weeks. So its safe to assume that I was pretty comfortable using their respective input mechanisms. Before I undertook this test, I thought the E90 would have an advantage because of the larger keys and the dedicated numerals. Its width was going to be a disadvantage. The E71 would be around the same level, but where numbers came in, it would take a severe beating. My trusty N95 would sail with text and suffer with custom words. All reasonable expectations.

What has come out of this test is almost a reiteration of what I thought. With a mixture of text and numbers,  the E90 does 33 words a minute, while the E71 comes in at 30 with the N95 being a close third at 29. The N95 has surprised me a little with its performance and other T9 based keypad such as that on the N82 or N78 would never be able to match this performance. With pure text in play, all devices finished at a very good average of about 36 words per minute.

Keeping the figures aside for a moment, here are the conclusions I have come to:

– The E71 despite its smaller keyboard can still hold its own and with a little practise you should be able to get fair speeds on it. However concertration is a must and you possibly can’t type without looking.

– The E90 needs the auto correct option from the E71, with that it will be a killer text behmoth. Although, it stills holds the crown of being the best option. Its much less taxing typing on its keyboard vis-a-vis the E71.

– If you are just looking for casual data entry, even good T9 phones such as the N95 and possibly the N96 will more than suffice.

– Will I buy the E71 just for the QWERTY? No. But there is so much to like in it that I am finding it very hard to resist.

Have I overlooked anything? Let me know and I’ll be sure to update the post.

31 thoughts on “E71 v/s E90 v/s T9 – Which Is The Fastest?”

  1. I have been having the same thoughts for a while, after moving from a Psion Revo to a Sharp Zaurus SL5500 with a blackberry-sized keyboard, and then to various T9 phones, all for writing notes, letters, blog posts etc. Currently have N95.

    The more limited and therefore easier targets when using T9 always makes me feel faster, but the convenience of knowing that the character you hit is the character you get, and not having to check every word or enter new ones occasionally, is a big plus for QWERTY. I have tried the Adaptxt beta and could not live with it, and I definitely agree that auto correct is muhc more important than auto complete for keyed entry on a small device.

    Interestingly, other people have got different results to you, with a much more expected ranking from T9=okay to E90=best.

    I think the lesson is that amount of practice, and personal predilections, and fine motor coordination skills and digit size, are probably the most important factors.

  2. On my first attempt I got 25 seconds for the text only input on my N95 and that was with correcting a mistake too…!

  3. Very interesting. But the tragedy is, the very pancake-ness of QWERTY phones, turn me off. ALso, I use T9 mainly for messages or emails, and I dont think T9 is worse off than any other solution.

    Yes, there is the reassurance of knowing in QWERTY that what you hit is what you get. But add enohgh word to T9 dictionary over a month and you will have a pretty good customised experience. Too bad I am not aware of a method of moving your T9 dictionary to other phones, so there’s the downer.

    Also, T9 keys tend to be larger and there is less of them. That, counpled with the difficulty of hittng QWERTY keys, large size of those phones, and the economy of movement for your thumb, make T9 worthwhile to me.

    Adaptxt is good, but it created a fatal conflict with my N-gage app, so it is out. I can understand why some people, particularly users of QWERTY, can’t live with it – it increases the amount of movement your eyes have to make from keypad to screen exponentially.

    But let me plug another app that can make anyone’s jaw drop – t9nav for s60 (t9nav.com). The software is currently in beta but it is amazing, offering instant search results of apps and contacts by allwoing you to type right on the standby screen. It will make you forget your s60 menu. I am plugging those guys because their service is excellent – the app showed a bug on my N82, I reported it thru feedback form on their website, and it was fixed the next week!

  4. Dubito, you hit the nail on the head with the last para, those things define how good or bad a person will be on any phone for that matter.

    Tim, T9nav sure sounds interesting, I’ll be sure to check it out. That functionality is present by default on the newer Eseries like the E71, by default. You can type in the standby for access to contacts at least.

    As for transferring the T9 customization, I think its possible. I’ll try once and then write about it today.

  5. Very interesting. It helps to break the fixed mindset that qwerty must be much faster. I personally use my cellphone as laptop-substitute, and type a lot using the alfa-numeric keypad, and feel quiet comfortable with it. But now I’m feeling an intense urge to buy E71, dreaming to type much faster with it’s qwerty keyboard, along with it’s other mind blowing features! Am I awakened? 🙂
    But I must request you to give E71 more practice days, rather months, as you tried on it only two mere weeks, whereas with N95 you played for months! Isn’t it a bit unfair? 🙂 Looking forward to here from you!

  6. Tim, the T9 dictionary can be sent across, here how: http://thesymbianblog.com/2008/08/05/how-to-move-your-t9-dictionary-to-your-new-phone/ 🙂

    Prosenjitz, E71 is a great phone, undoubtedly, a phone if you are not too keen on music and caemra is almost a must buy. As far as typing speeds increasing with practise, definately. But the size of your thumbs will be the ultimate deciding factor in how fast you can go.

    As far as practicing for months goes, the E71 I have a review unit which WOM World has very kindly sent across, so I don’t think I will have it for that long a time. That is if I don’t sell off my E90 for it! 😉

  7. Wow!

    This is impressive.

    I just performed the words-only test on my Tilt (HTC Kaiser)

    With the in-built keyboard the sentence took an average of 50 seconds and with a non-t-9 predictive on-screen keypad (TouchPal), it took 65 seconds.

    I shied away from the N95 because I wanted a full keypad and really disliked my E61. I may have to re-think in the fall when the HTC Touch Pro comes available stateside.

    It IS hard to beat that NOK gazillion colour screen – esp when WinMob devices are limited to 65k colours…regardless of their resolution.

  8. My first attempt at the sample sentence yielded 59 seconds on my N95-4. I’ve reached a high speed of 71 WPM on iphonetypingtest.com on my N95-4 as well. It sounds like everyone needs to spend a little bit more time with T9.

  9. One thing to consider: If you enter a lot of website addresses, predictive text does not help you. Here QWERTY is most definitely faster.

  10. NICE posting!! Great comparison. I’ve found that I get about the same results, as well, when comparing my E61 with my old N95. I love both qwerty AND t9, just the same. They both have advantages and disadvantages.

  11. T9 sucks more one finnish language, unless ur purely writing literary language, wich makes u look dumb on im and irc-chat. However i still prefer to keep T9 mainly on on my E90, as it is handy for short sms. Longer messages and chats I always write qwerty open.

  12. Nice test, bur the conclusion seems wrong (from my perspective). It should be like this. For plain text, NO difference. For the mixed text, T9 is at most 11% slower than qwerty, no BIG deal. It would have been if it starting approaching 50%, but it didn’t. So I will happily go with T9 on a phone and qwerty on my laptop.

  13. I started with usual T9 phones and found them quite quick except when I came to entering odd items, or for words I cannot remember how to spell. So, I went to an E61 and found the keyboard small, but overall pretty good. Then I went to E90, which has the two keyboards. For short sms I use the T9, but for emails or long sms the internal is still the best and I would choose over any of the smaller keyboards.

  14. Hi,
    Just got N95-3 and having trouble with T9 as compared to previous SE W810i. While trying the test above, when trying to type “role”, Nokia’s T9 kept on coming up with “sold”, how to I check if there other word choices? I had to clear the word and hit # and then spell “role”, I know there must be a predictive way.

  15. My problem with T9 is that I regularly type words it doesn’t recognize (e.g. names). The time it takes too find out that it doesn’t know the word, than correcting it so that spelling will be the easiest, and then actually spelling the word itself takes SO much time, that I say, QWERTY for ever (that’s why I bought the E90 too replace my N95 – thinking about an E71 now). A lot of friends I know don’t even use T9 (on their “dumb-phones”) because they find that T9 “never” predicts the word they mean (and use the old multi-tap system)

  16. Hi! I am an another long time T9 fan. I deliberately chose E66 over E71, because I like the nice big keys that T9 phones offer, let alone their (especially E66’s) design and lack of pancakeness. Just imagine typing or dialling on the tiny QWERTY keys with your thick gloves on when there’s -20 Celsius outside! – it’s not too easy, but well possible with larger keys.

    I tried these test texts too. I mostly type in my native language, Estonian, but a couple of tries to get the feel and 46 seconds for the first text and 23 for the second. Again, T9 FTW!

  17. I’ve been using my e-90 on AT&T in the US for two weeks now. Previously tried a 9500 (abandoned because of poor coverage – no 850 GSM), and a Cingular branded 9300.

    For the past 5 years I’ve been using a string of forever-upgrading Windows Mobile devices. Our company is on an Exchange Server, and the e-mail, contacts, and calender syncing was great. However, very mediocre phones. The touchscreen, while great for some things, is terrible for one-handed operations. The Bluetooth on every HTC device I’ve owned was intermittent, dropping calls at the most inopportune times, and the reception was never great.

    I like the idea of the communicator, and the Activesync application finally sold me.

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