iPhone 3GS allows users to text, email, surf in Hawaiian

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Posted: Jun 24, 2009

The new Apple iPhone 3G S allows users to easily type diacritical marks essential for text messaging, emailing and Web surfing in Hawaiian, said an assistant professor of Hawaiian language at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

"Users do not have to install custom fonts and keyboard in order to display ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi with contemporary orthography on the iPhone and Macintosh," said Keola Donaghy of Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language. "That used to be a big barrier for users over the years — having to install custom software and perhaps later having to upgrade it."

Version 3.0 of the iPhone‘s operating system allows users to type in the ʻokina (a glottal stop) and kahakō (a macron which appears over vowels in Hawaiian and other Polynesian languages). In addition, iPhone has an option to display the days of the week, month and other text in Hawaiian.

"Apple has been supporting the Hawaiian language since 1994 when they donated computers and offered support to the staff at Hale Kuamoʻo, the Hawaiian Language Center at UH Hilo," Donaghy said. "These computers were used to develop and operate Leokī, the first intranet telecommunications system completely implemented in an indigenous language, and Kualono, one of the first completely bilingual Websites on the Internet. With assistance from Hale Kuamoʻo‘s technology staff, Apple engineers added a Hawaiian keyboard, localized date strings, sorting routines and other Hawaiian language support to Macintosh OS X in 2002.

"Hawaiʻi is such a small market that it doesn‘t make a lot of sense economically for Apple to support Hawaiian language they way that they have, but they continue to support us by adding functionality that assists in our efforts to take the language into the future," he added.

The Hawaiian language support is included with the new iPhone 3G S, but the iPhone 3.0 update can also be installed on older iPhone 3G and iPod Touch devices, Donaghy said. He added that the Hawaiian language option can be accessed on the standard U.S. English keyboard on the device.

"To type a vowel with a kahakō over it, touch any vowel on the keyboard and hold a finger over it for a second or two, and that vowel will appear in a pop-up list with several diacritic characters," Donaghy explained. "Drag a finger over the vowel-macron combination then raise the finger off the keyboard.

"To type the ʻokina, one must first toggle the keyboard to display the number and punctuation marks by pressing the ʻ123‘ key," he added. "Select the apostrophe key and hold it for a second or two. A pop-up list showing some variant characters will appear. Drag a finger over the character to the far left, which is the ʻokina."

For more information, contact Donaghy at (808) 974-7798 or email donaghy@hawaii.edu.