Sunday, October 12, 2008

5 landscape keyboards for iPhone/iPod Touch email

While we’re still baffled by Apple’s strange policy to restrict using landscape keyboard within iPhone’s/iPod Touch’s built-in email app, you can’t just sit there like a duck and wait till Apple change its mind. ~LOL~

Strange? Yes, of course. One of iPhone/iPod Touch main traits is its wide screen orientation (horizontal), rather than the long (vertical) view. Because with the landscape view, you can have bigger on-screen buttons to tap on; and wider view to ease reading/composing long email.

Lucky for you, there have been five apps… not one, but five of them. Which work as a bridge for you to compose and write email in landscape mode. A good appraisal has been wrote by
theetoothfairy at ModMyI forum, describing the features for each apps along with screenshots.

Before you’re about to drool in excitement of purchasing and trying out the apps to be mentioned below, there’s one important note before placing your hope too high: these apps only work with email, but not with text messaging/SMS! I’ll talk about this later, at the bottom of this post; so keep on reading.

Here they are, listed in accordance of their price tag:

Compose ($4.99)

We start at the landscape keyboard for email app that has the highest price tag; Compose. It’s pretty plain straightforward; you launch the app, type in on the large on-screen keyboard’s buttons, push it to the iPhone’s Mail, and then you can put recipient address and send it as usual. But wait, don’t hesitate. Why pay more, if you can get a better app with cheaper price tag, right?

Wide Email ($1.99)

This one got more complete explanations from the developer; The Wide Email horizontal keyboard has wider keys that are easier to see and to hit, even for people with big thumbs. Write the email then, with one tap, transfer it to Mail to add recipients and send it. Features:

  • Use wider, horizontal "landscape" keyboard to write emails
  • Works for replying to emails from Mail, including reply all (see below)
  • Turn phone to any orientation (even upside down!) and interface rotates
  • Save drafts to finish later — great for writing long emails to friends
  • Automatically saves copies of sent emails, just in case
  • Automatically saves drafts if program is interrupted, e.g. by home key

You still must send the email through the built-in Mail program. Just tap "Send to Mail", add recipients, and send. To reply (or reply all) to emails in Mail, first choose reply from within Mail, and when the compose window comes up, quit Mail by pressing the home key. Open Wide Email and write your reply in a new draft with an empty subject line. When you tap "Send to Mail", your message will be inserted into the reply email, ready to send!

There’s an update coming to Wide Email price tag, the developer has posted about it in MacRumors forum: “First of all, the price of the app really is 99 cents, despite what the app's info page on iTunes says right now. The change hasn't propagated all the way through their system yet .. but if you do a search in iTunes, you'll see the correct price of 99 cents, so I'm sure that's what you would be charged. The info page should update soon.”

Lettera ($1.99)

This app got the most unique user interface for writing email, the default landscape keyboard is replaced with replica of old-fashioned typing machine. Lettera features are:

  • Touch-type your notes on the screen
  • Enjoy the typewriter sound effects
  • Use the iPhone accelerometer to start a new line
  • Share your notes as beautifully formatted PDF pages
  • Choose among different paper textures and colours
  • Use your notes to compose emails in Mail application
  • Choose between US and Latin keyboard

Sideways ($1.99)

Here are some of the explanations quoted from the developer: Sideways presents a wider keyboard, giving you extra room for increased typing speed and fewer mistakes. Tap the action button and send the text to Mail.


  • Wider keyboard for better accuracy and increased typing speed.
  • Text is saved between launches.
  • Tap Trash to delete current text.
  • Action button for sending to email or restoring default help text.

Sideways can also be used to reply to or forward an email. Start in Mail and initiate the reply or forward. Open Sideways and type your text. Then just tap the "Send to Mail" action and the text will be inserted into the already-initiated message.


  • Multiple Pages of storage
  • Send text to Twitter (and possibly other services)

TouchType ($0.99)

This app is the most reviewed and quickly becomes everybody’s favorite, mostly is because TouchType is the cheapest one among the others. Here’s what iPhone Atlas said about TouchType: “Open the App and you get a landscape mode keyboard. You can then type your email and hit the send button and it auto-populates the Mobile Mail App. Enter your email address and off goes the message you just typed."

There you go, the five competing landscape keyboard for your iPhone/iPod Touch email usage. Now let’s go off for awhile and talk about, why the landscape keyboard orientation can’t work with iPhone text messaging/SMS.

Although, if you watch closely how the above mentioned apps work, the apps are using the same concept of the ‘forbidden’ cut & paste feature; where they copy the written email texts to temp file -> open up Mail -> and then paste the content of temp file into email’s body. (Thanks to nickboeka for pointing this out)

This is because in Mail, it interacts with other built-in apps such as Safari & Notes. So that’s why, for now, the software developers are able to find this loop hole to work around the need for landscape keyboard in email; but not for SMS. Because the iPhone SDK still limits this kinda work around. Just like what the Wide Email developer has mentioned in his post: “…about SMS and reading emails in the wide-screen orientation ... neither is possible with the current SDK. If and when it is, I'll be sure to add those features."

For the sake of iPhone/iPod Touch users, and for Apple’s too, I sincerely hope Apple will soon allow such feature to be implemented. Otherwise, this sort of limitation (from many other limitations) can only bring bitter taste and grudge from the users’ mouths themselves.

Like exactly what cpjr, ModMyI moderator has to say about these recent landscape keyboard releases: “Nice, but I hate the fact that I have to use another program "just" to have this function. Come on Apple!"

Yes, exactly right? Let’s say it together now: “Come on Apple!!” ~LOL~

[blogged with my Treo 750v]

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