Poor For Editing
John neatly summarizes the issue with the iPad's software keyboard in response to a concept video that's been making the rounds this week:
Once you get used to it, the iPad keyboard isn’t bad for typing, but no matter how acclimated you are it’s poor for editing. It’s fiddly, slow, and (because you have to take a hand off the keyboard) disruptive to select text.
Like I said, I think Hooper's proposed solution makes a lot of sense:
By allowing users to tap and swipe on the keyboard, this system could, in theory, allow for faster selection, also in combination with keys like Shift. Almost every area of iOS now supports taps and swipes: why not the keyboard?
A popular argument I've heard from those who don't think Apple should ever consider an implementation similar to this is that it would break the metaphor of directly manipulating text on screen. Which is true, and which is also perfectly fine as iOS already breaks several of its own metaphors by offering multiple ways to perform tasks:
You can scroll a webpage to the top by pulling the content down, or tapping the iOS status bar.
You can move between apps using the Home button, or multitasking gestures.
You can close a photo by pinching out or tapping the Back button:
You can split the keyboard itself.
I don't think it's about differentiating between the iOS “for power users” (i.e. the people who, supposedly, are the only ones who know about multitasking gestures) and the iOS “for everyone else”. It's about offering better options, and text selection on the iPad desperately needs one as the device is being used for real-life editing.