I got my Twiddler 3 a bit more than a month ago. Having practiced typing on it a lot with my own layout, I thought it might be interesting to share my experience and thoughts.
I bought Twiddler 3 to be able to type prose (like this post!) more quickly and comfortably on mobile devices - an iPad and an Android phone. I use the Twiddler with my left hand.
I've also come up with my custom layout, which you can find in this post.
Speed and training
I could type 30 wpm using the on-screen keyboard of my iPad with close to 100% accuracy. With my Android phone I could type faster 40 wpm because I only need to move my thumb instead of my whole hand thanks to the smaller screen, but that also means lower accuracy - 80% to 90%.
After training for 40 hours, I’m currently at 40 wpm with 98% accuracy (when typing lower-case letters). So the Twiddler is now a strict improvement for my typing experience on both my mobile devices (hooray!).
The speed differs a lot between individual keys, ranging from 30 wpm to 55 wpm, so I’m hopeful that there’s space for improvement as I use my Twiddler more - probably topping out around 50 wpm overall (the 55 wpm is only reached on the easiest one-key chords, so I may never attain that speed with the harder chords).
As for the method of training, I tried out both official tutors but settled on keybr.com. From what I gather the official tutor is based on an old version of it; they use the same methodology of unlocking letter by letter, but keybr.com has a lot more features. One of the most useful ones are:
- It allows you to set your target wpm; I set it initially to a more modest 30 wpm to unlock the full alphabet first (which I managed just two weeks ago) and am now raising it gradually to improve my speed.
- It synchronizes your profile on the “cloud”, which is quite useful for me as I usually practice on the bigger iPad, but when I’m on the go I tend to use my phone.
The website does have ads, but the software behind it is open-source, so I gladly bought a premium membership (which removes the ads), which is quite cheap anyway.
One thing to note though is that it has its own frequency ordering, which doesn’t quite match the one I relied on. As a result, L (a two-key chord) is unlocked much earlier than H (a single-key chord). This is no big issue though, and it’s actually fun to have a two-key chord early on.
I had no problem using the strap and typing with my fingers is quite comfortable. But getting the thumb into a comfortable position required some fiddling and I could see some potential improvements.
I first tried the position recommended by the official getting started guide, forming an “O” with my thumb and index finger that wraps around the Twiddler. But after a few days of practice, I noticed this position stretched my thumb a bit too much, and I was a bit concerned that this could lead to RSI. So I now just rest my thumb on the strap (on the other side from the index finger), close to the Num modifier. This is much more comfortable for me, and although the Twiddler is less stable than the recommended position it’s still stable enough for normal typing.
Looking at the picture in the official guide, it’s clear that the Twiddler was tested on people with hands a bit larger than me (or at least whose thumbs are longer than mine), hence my difficulty with the recommended position. It would be nice the Twiddler comes in different sizes to suit different hand sizes, or just becomes slightly thinner. A subtle “waist” just below the thumb cluster would also work.
The main drawback with my thumb position is that the Shift modifier is now harder to reach. This is not a huge problem as I use my Twiddler on mobile devices that can capitalize the first letter of a sentence automatically, so the need for it is somewhat reduced. On the flip side, having Num really easy to hit allows me to utilize it a bit more in my layout.
Still, it would also be nice if we could remap the modifier keys entirely - I still use Shift a bit more than Num, use Alt occassionaly, and use Ctrl even less. So it would be ideal to rearrange the modifiers as Shift-Num-Ctrl-Alt (I find the rightmost key slightly easier to press than the one to its left). I know you can manually map each chord with one modifier to send another modifier instead, but this is quite a hassle, and more importantly, does not change the event of releasing the modifier itself - for example, releasing Alt will always trigger a keycode for Alt even if you’ve remapped every chord that uses Alt.
The metal loop
The metal loop for anchoring the strap is a bit larger than strictly necessary, and presses against my thumb when I’m trying to reach the Shift modifier. I’ll try to DIY a tighter loop myself and see if that makes it more comfortable. I’m not sure why it is the size it is - maybe it’s some off-the-shelf component?
The physical layout
I don’t use the joystick at all other than pressing it to wake the Twiddler from sleep. So it would be nicer if it doesn’t exist - this would allow the modifier keys to be moved into more convenient positions. One could even fit an additional Cmd/Win modifier.
On that topic, since I rest my thumb to the left side of the thumb cluster, it would also be great if the cluster itself is physically shifted to the left to make everything easier to hit. Obviously, this only works for people using their left hand and resting their thumb where I do.
Needless to say, neither of my wishes will have universal appeal and it’s impractical to offer all possible different combinations of physical features, or indeed any variant at all. From a commercial point of view, it’s certainly a wise choice to offer one physical layout that is a compromise between different people’s needs. But maybe my experience could inform a slightly different compromise in future