This might be for a somewhat small audience, but if you have a jailbroken iPhone, there’s a great $2 app in the Cydia store that lets you customize a 5-row, 41 character keyboard (and if you really want to go nuts with it, you can set it up with 82 characters, taking advantage of the shift key).
This tutorial will explain how to set this keyboard up to make a Russian Phonetic keyboard layout, which doesn’t seem to exist on the iPhone at all. The idea with the Russian phonetic layout is that you don’t need to re-learn how to touch-type. Typing “asdf” produces “асдф”, so you can prettymuch type without searching for most letters. There are a few characters that you simply have to learn (я is under the Q key, щ is usually under the ` key, э is \, ж is ], and ю is [ ), but for the most part, it’s very intuitive. You can try it out immediately at Typeit.org, where they have a neat web app that sort of takes over your computer. (For something more permanent, PC users should go here. Mac users, go to System Preferences -> Language and Text -> Input Sources and check “Russian - Phonetic” and “Show Input menu in Menu Bar”.)
The problem is that it’s all but impossible on an iPhone. But! If you have a jailbroken iPhone, do this:
1. Open Cydia and search for “5 Row Customizable Keyboard”
2. Tap on it, let it load, then install it (click purchase in the top right).
3. After the springboard reloads, go to Settings -> 5RowKeyboard
4. In 5RowKeyboard, you need to write in the characters for each row of keys. Here are my recommendations (I’ve moved a few things around, since the iPhone keyboard isn’t quite the same shape as a normal keyboard):
You can copy those directly from Safari and paste them into your phone settings. You can ignore ShiftRow1-4. The keyboard will automatically capitalize the letters when you hit shift (ShiftRow1,2,3 and 4 are just if you want 41 DIFFERENT characters when you hit shift).
5. Now scroll down and hit “Update and Respring”
6. You should be done. If you don’t see your keyboard, then go to General -> Keyboard -> International Keyboards -> Add New Keyboard… and select 5 Row.
7. That’s it! Enjoy!