Thursday, May 09, 2013

Muscle Memory and Mobile

When I travel abroad and I know roaming charges are going to be high, I revert to using my trusty Nokia N95 to minimise data costs. I’ve been using an Android phone for the last couple of years and it is at least a year since I last used my N95. But when I picked it up again last week, it felt like going home when it came to using the keypad. It was totally pleasurable. And fast. Much faster than on a touchscreen. It made me feel good whilst I was doing it. It felt like home. The combination of flicking up the screen to reveal the keypad and then using the keypad was a delight in a way my touchscreen phone has never been. And I use that *a lot*.

So what’s going on here? It seems that I have ‘muscle memory’ for the keypad but it hasn’t developed for my touchscreen use in the same way. Muscle memory is not a memory actually stored in your muscles, but they are memories stored in your brain and they are a bit like a cache of frequently enacted tasks for your muscles. I touch type, that’s another muscle memory. My ability to communicate is directly linked to my access to a good keyboard and I literally think through my fingers. Riding a bike would be an example of another. Or playing a musical instrument.

I do have some muscle memory with my touchscreen phone, but it’s linked to browsing or playing games not typing and it’s not a positive thing. The swipe up/down/left/right is now a natural instinct, but it doesn’t bring me joy or satisfaction in nearly the same way, and if anything, I think I have negative emotions associated with it. I’ve tried the haptic screen too and that did nothing for me.

I wonder, do people who have only used a touchscreen have muscle memory for that or is it linked to something that needs a bit more physical exertion like pressing a key? Anyone have any insight into this area and care to comment?

Suffice to say, bring back keyboards and keypads for mobile devices. I want my keypad back!