Texting with touchscreen and keypad phones - A comparison of thumb kinematics, upper limb muscle activity, exertion, discomfort, and performance

Ewa Gustafsson, Pieter Coenen, Amity Campbell, Leon Straker

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31 Citations (Scopus)


This study aimed to compare thumb kinematics and upper limb muscle activity, and the influence of hand size, when texting on a keypad smartphone and a touchscreen smartphone. Furthermore, the study compared exertion, discomfort, and performance when texting on the two phones. The thumb kinematics were tracked using a 3D motion analysis system and muscle activity was registered in six upper limb muscles using surface electromyography in 19 participants. When texting on the touchscreen phone compared to the keypad phone thumb flexion (p = 0.008) and flexion/extension range of motion were smaller (p = 0.02), the thumb was on average less internally rotated (p = 0.02), and activity (50th and 90th percentile) of the thumb and forearm muscles was lower (p ≤ 0.05). The differences in thumb flexion were found only in the group with shorter hands and the differences in muscle activity was found only in the group with longer hands. These findings suggest there are differences in risks for developing musculoskeletal disorders during smartphone use with different key activation mechanisms and different hand sizes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-239
Number of pages8
JournalApplied ergonomics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018


  • EMG
  • Hand size
  • Smartphones

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