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Smartphone for Japanese

#1
I have to buy a new smartphone in the near future, and I was wondering what would be the best choice for reading AND WRITING in Japanese. I'm still at about N4-N3 level, and I don't really know how to use a Japanese keyboard system. Would a phablet with a stylus (such as the Samsung Note) be extremely useful, or is it relatively easy to learn to use a Japanese keyboard (provided Android has a Japanese keyboard built in)?
I'm asking this because I've set my western keyboard to Japanese, but I can only write in Kana, and I'm interested in kanji too.
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#2
Japanese keyboards work the same way as your IME on PC. So any smartphone will work.
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#3
So how do they work? Do they have kana written on the keyboard? How about kanji? I don't really understand how Japanese keyboards work. When I set to Japanese on windows, I just "think" and write in kana.
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JapanesePod101
#4
You can use romaji input on smartphones if you're comfortable with that, and it's the same as doing it on the computer.
Personally, I use the flick method on a keypad input - each key has あ column kana on it, and you tap the key to generate it, tap and briefly drag ('flick') in the 4 cardinal directions to generate the other characters from that kana row. It takes a little practice, but because it's on a numberpad style layout, the keys are much bigger, and you're only flicking once for each character instead of tapping twice as you do on a romaji keyboard. (Of course vowel kana are produced on a romaji keyboard with one click, and when you need the あcolumn character twice as in かかる you need to press a finalizing button before the second か or it will treat it as 'multi-tap' input and change your か to a き... )

All that probably sounds pretty complicated, but I actually find it pretty easy to use - just not to describe. YMMV.
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#5
I see, and is that the same method Japanese people use?
How about kanji? Since I don't really know how Japanese keyboards work, do you have to know the pronunciantion of a word, and the software will present you with a list of kanji combinations with that pronunciation?
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#6
when you input the kana (or romaji) the IME will suggest possible kanji and you select the kanji you want. there's no special kanji based input method.
Edited: 2016-04-18, 9:19 am
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#7
The keyboards work like kendo99 says, with options based on reading being presented to you. That's how I write most of the time. Sometimes for compounds that I don't know the reading of I'll type in a series of words to generate the keyword, or just make a guess at the reading. Sometimes even if you guess the wrong reading, the word will still be offered to you, because it's a guess that native speakers would make.

However, I also installed handwriting input (I have google's handwriting IME on my Android. When I had an iphone, I just used the built-in chinese handwriting which worked 99% of the time. There *are* some characters that exist in Japanese and not Chinese.... but only a handful compared to thousands that are in both languages.)

The handwriting interface is, of course, really useful for cases where you don't know any pronunciation of the character you're looking at.
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#8
One thing that annoyed me about my smartphone is that they never allowed me to switch the system language to japanese. Keyboards and other stuff were fine, they even had chinese in there, but never japanese for some reason. So if you ever at least want the option to change the system language to japanese, I would check to see if it supports that. Not that it's the only reason to get a smartphone, but something to consider
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#9
A screenshot is worth 1000 words. The IME guesses the kanji based on your frequent usage,common terms, etc. Just like on the computer. I also attached a screenshot of the other keyboard style, though i'm not too fond of it. 
[Image: image_zpsdl6tjcbp.png]

[Image: image_zpsofoug0fm.png]
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#10
Thx for the answers guys. If I understood correctly, to summarize what has been said: you have to learn how to use the keyboard in the japanese system. Although it's now much more clear, and shouldn't require too much practice to become familiar with it. So I don't need a galaxy note ^^, but any new android smartphone, preferably with Japanese support, will do it.
Nevertheless, I still find the idea of handwriting interestind. SomeCallMeChris, did you use your finger, or did you buy a stylus for smartphones? Is that handwriting app similar to Jisho.org, that doesn't require very accurate handwriting to guess the kanji? I'm asking this because I also want to know the pronunciation of certain kanji compounds when I don't know them.
Edited: 2016-04-18, 4:02 pm
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#11
I found something that will show you how the 2 types of Japanese input work on an iPhone (though it is essentially the same on Android too) :

Using the QWERTY/ Romaji input keyboard:
Quote:Roma-ji is pretty self explanatory. You just enter words phonetically on a QWERTY keyboard. As you type, suggested words come up in the top grey area and you can select those if they fit. This video shows it in action.

This method is essentially like the way most people write in Japanese on the computer.


Using the Kana/Flick Keyboard:
Quote:You can do that by tapping on the keys repeatedly, or using the circular arrow key 2nd from the top on the left side. However, if you master the flick input method (which is pretty easy after a little practice; many people don't know about it though) it's actually the fastest way to write in all Japanese. The video here shows how the flick method works:


Both inputs once you write a word will show a popup of a list of potential kanji forms just right above the keyboards for you to choose from.

Source: Which Japanese input method on iPhone is more popular, Kana or Romaji?

Based on the JALUP article "Kana Input Vs. Qwerty Romaji Input For A Smartphone", it seems that native Japanese prefer the Kana/Flick input mainly because it has been around for much longer (pre smart phone days). It resembles it predecessor the Keitai input in the layout of where the kana is but now we have the option to Flick instead of repeating to press the same button til we get the desired kana/symbol.

The JALUP writer recommends using QWERTY/romaji and that is his personal preference in writing Japanese on his phone. I personally use the kana/flick method but really it's all preference at the end of the day.  

One last thing: Unlike iPhones where they just add the Japanese keyboards from the settings menu, Android users will have download the keyboard as an app. Google Japanese Input for the Android is one I use which is free on the Play Store. I could be wrong but I think this is one of the most popular Japanese input app for the Android.

Hope this helps! (sorry for such a long post)
Edited: 2016-04-18, 6:12 pm
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#12
I usually use my finger but I do have a stylus. Finger is fine if you just want to look up a character, but fingers are pretty blunt. I need the stylus if I'm going to try to actually write words in Japanese, because with my finger a single high-stroke count kanji will take up all the space, and then there's a delay until you can write again.

You can adjust the delay, but I have it set pretty high because I don't want it to try to recognize a partial kanji when I hesitate between strokes. I have noticed that as long as I keep my finger or stylus in contact with the screen it won't try to recognize, so if I have to think about the next stroke now I just keep contact until I'm ready. As such, I guess I could change the recognition delay to be really short now and still manage, but, well, I use it mostly to look up single characters anyway.
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#13
Very interesting links. I've skimmed through them, but I'll probably read them more thoroughly later.
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#14
For what it's worth, I think the kana/flick input is better overall but especially in small/low screen space situations in particular. If you have a small screen and big fingers, it can be difficult to write using an on screen qwerty keyboard. That's kinda why I prefer writing in Japanese on my cellphone instead of English, because I end up fat fingering all over the qwerty keyboard.

The 10 key system is really easy to learn once you figure it out since it's all based on the same pattern.
[Image: 773b775977d314feb7368509e075dcb7.png]
Top left of the 10 key is base あ.
Flick あ up to get う.
Flick あ left to get い.
Flick あ right to get え.
Flick あ down to get お.

Top right of the 10 key is base さ.
Flick さ up to get す.
Flick さ left to get し.
Flick さ right to get せ.
Flick さ down to get そ.

The above pattern also applies for か, た, な, は, ま, や, and ら.

わ is special though.
わ left gives you を.
わ up gives you ん.
わ right typically gives you ー.
わ down gives you nothing.


For Android phones, unless you get a Japanese phone, you would most likely need to download a Japanese keyboard. Simeji and Google Japanese Input are popular and support both modes of input.

Any Android phone should be able to install a Japanese keyboard regardless of what language the phone is in, so pick a phone that you think is good instead of what you think would have good Japanese support. For example, my old Samsung Galaxy S Vibrant and my current HTC One M7 both work perfectly with Japanese keyboards but they are from US carriers.

Note: Japanese keyboards suck at qwerty mode in general imo. They don't put an emphasis on making it easy to write English so it can be a pain to write English using the Japanese keyboard. You have to peck at each letter individually instead of swiping across the keyboard like some other keyboards designed for English.
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#15
(2016-04-19, 8:57 am)zx573 Wrote: For what it's worth, I think the kana/flick input is better overall but especially in small/low screen space situations in particular. If you have a small screen and big fingers, it can be difficult to write using an on screen qwerty keyboard. That's kinda why I prefer writing in Japanese on my cellphone instead of English, because I end up fat fingering all over the qwerty keyboard.

GREAT GREAT GREAT!!!

Btw, we were talking about drawing kanji. Has anyone tried jisho.org on mobile? Is it easy to use on a mobile, and to draw kanji with it?
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#16
Well like drawing from the website on a computer, it is stroke order dependent. But if you don't know the stroke order, the Radical search feature is a great alternative. I actually prefer searching via radical as I don't always trust that I will get the correct stroke order. At least with the radical search, I am able to search a kanji via its components and narrow it down my stroke count.

EDIT: Here is a good Tofugu article on how to search for unknown kanji with radical search as one of the techniques (and drawing it too).

https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/look-up-kanji/
Edited: 2016-04-19, 10:41 am
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#17
Thank God I know stroke orders ^^. Heisig built a truly fine method.
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#18
(2016-04-19, 9:54 am)Meriden Wrote: Btw, we were talking about drawing kanji. Has anyone tried jisho.org on mobile? Is it easy to use on a mobile, and to draw kanji with it?

I guess it's fine, but jisho.org just uses the EDICT database (from the wwwjdic website and project). There are a ton of dictionaries that you can install. I've been using dokugakusha on android and was using imiwa when I was on the iPhone. There's a lot of free options that you can try out and a few paid options, most of which have a free trial version. The most important thing for me in a smartphone dictionary app is that includes the whole dictionary on the phone.

Some apps will look up your words online, which saves space of course, but if you're ever in a spot without reception or wifi then you're stuck unable to look up your words. Also, lookups are noticeably faster when there's no need to get the definition from the net.

If you didn't care about those things, there would be no reason not to use jisho.org I suppose. I use http://dic.yahoo.co.jp or http://dictionary.goo.ne.jp/ sometimes when I want to see example sentences or a more through definition, or the word just isn't in EDICT. At some point when I have the money to spare I might install a commercial dictionary or two ... something bigger, maybe, and also for the speed of offline access. Also no web service seems to offer 大辞林 anymore, which is the only 国語 dictionary I've seen that notates pitch accent.
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#19
(2016-04-18, 11:28 am)SomeCallMeChris Wrote: google's handwriting IME on my Android.

If you want to practice writing, or you know which kanji you want to use but not the pronunciation, this is a fun and easy way to do it.

If I'm in a hurry I use the Google Japanese Input with the romaji keyboard that converts to kana as you type.

In general I would recommend an android phone over an iphone, since they are cheaper and Ankidroid is free (I believe the Iphone version is $20 or so).
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#20
Here is a good article to reference for later when you finally buy that smartphone. https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/how-to-i...-keyboard/
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#21
(2016-04-21, 11:17 am)RawrPk Wrote: Here is a good article to reference for later when you finally buy that smartphone. https://www.tofugu.com/japanese/how-to-i...-keyboard/

Very nice article.
It's funny that it was released just a few days ago Big Grin .
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#22
Rather than making a new post, I figured I'd reply here.
I've used multiple Japanese KBs on my smartphone throughout the years and recently, I use Flick input for all of them just to familiarize myself with kana more. But I feel like it takes an ungodly amount of time to use kana flick, vs if I were to use romanji input. The reason I try not to use romanji is because I don't want to use latin alphabet as a crutch for my Japanese.
But I wonder, what do you guys mostly use? Do you think using the romanji input is a crutch?
BTW, I'm about N4 level, approaching N3.

Edit: Also, what do native Japanese people use?
Edited: 2017-01-30, 8:32 pm
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#23
(2017-01-30, 8:31 pm)Coolie4 Wrote: Rather than making a new post, I figured I'd reply here.
I've used multiple Japanese KBs on my smartphone throughout the years and recently, I use Flick input for all of them just to familiarize myself with kana more. But I feel like it takes an ungodly amount of time to use kana flick, vs if I were to use romanji input. The reason I try not to use romanji is because I don't want to use latin alphabet as a crutch for my Japanese.
But I wonder, what do you guys mostly use?  Do you think using the romanji input is a crutch?
BTW, I'm about N4 level, approaching N3.

Edit: Also, what do native Japanese people use?

I use google's keypad input with flick, or when I'm having trouble generating a character, then google's handwriting input. When I had an iphone I used the built in keypad with flick. Japanese use flick or romaji, but mostly flick.

I feel like you've probably not used flick very much if you think it's slower than romaji. Once you have the vowel-sound order in muscle memory it's really very fast. You do have to write out some hundreds of words though before you become comfortable. By now I've written thousands of words and it's second nature. I could never go back to pecking on a roman input keyboard.

I haven't learned flick for the roman alphabet though because the alphabetical arrangement is terribly unintuitive.  Flick for Japanese is easy and natural because of how nicely it can pair up consonant+vowel sounds in an intuitive layout.
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#24
Android has a problem that it uses Chinese character sets by default. The only way to get properly rendered Japanese characters is to root the phone and to install a Japanese font

iOS is certainly superior to Android in this aspect
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#25
(2017-02-02, 5:33 pm)juniperpansy Wrote: Android has a problem that it uses Chinese character sets by default. The only way to get properly rendered Japanese characters is to root the phone and to install a Japanese font

iOS is certainly superior to Android in this aspect

This isn't true. I've never rooted my phone and I have no trouble. I seem to recall that 葉 and 直 look strange in Chinese fonts, but they look fine for me ... I can't recall what else looks weird in a Chinese font but anyway, I haven't been seeing weird characters. I did use developer mode to give MoreLocale2 permission to set locales so I could have a Japanese locale and I've installed a number of reader/dictionary apps that may have incidentally installed fonts for me... but no rooting was necessary. Even if it was an issue, it would really only affect the names of apps and maybe the built in memo pad. Dictionary apps, book reader software, etc. don't just use the default font after all.

Personally, I found iPhone offering only Chinese handwriting recognition really annoying. Mostly it was fine..ish. Slightly annoying that you can't mix kanji and kana, but okay, I generally only use it to produce characters I can't pronounce to look them up in a dictionary. Every now and then though, you get a character that either doesn't exist in Chinese or has a different codepoint in Chinese than in Japanese and you're out of luck. I guess you can buy commercial IMEs to solve this problem, but on Android I just installed google's input methods. (This may have changed, I haven't used iPhone for a couple years).

Having used both, though, I can say that you can get a quite serviceable Japanese environment on either kind of phone. They are not exactly equal, each has its own small advantages and disadvantages, but they are both fine once you get set up.
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