Android users have the choice of a multitude of alternative soft-keyboards with which to enhance their text input ability. There are lots of innovative and even odd examples which may be able to transform your clumsy prodding into Mavis Beacon rivalling keyboard proficiency. Now there is hope for iPhone and iPad users - who get the choice of the Apple standard soft-keyboard, like it or lump it - that Nuance’s excellent Swype keyboard may debut on iOS in the coming months.
If you’ve never heard of it, Swype is a keyboard that lets the user doodle on the screen connecting the letters to make up words one at a time. Some users prefer it to inputting letters one at a time with a regular QWERTY soft keyboard. Swype offers a decent level of text predicting/suggestions.
In addition to swyping, Swype offers regular key-by-key typing, writing and speaking text input. The keyboard programmers claim Swype holds the “Guinness World Record – Fastest Time to Type a Text Message”. Now that Nuance have bought Swype (for $100 million) it has access to the dictation specialist company’s speech recognition engine and Dragon Mobile Assistant.
In a Reddit Q&A, Swype VP Aaron Sheedy confirmed that he has been in discussions with Apple about integrating and adopting the input technology into iOS. Many people regard Apple’s soft keyboard to be rather long in the tooth and in need of an update with more customisability. A Reddit user asked Sheedy “I was curious as to whether you've ever had any contact with Apple. Any conversations to see if they might have been interested in licensing your technology?” Sheedy replied “Yes, we have chatted with them, they are very smart and nice.”
The Inquirer reckons this “seems to confirm that Apple is interested in the technology and might even bring out its own version of the virtual keyboard with its next iPhone”. Could this be one of the big changes said to be heading for the upcoming iOS7, expected to be first seen at Apple’s WWDC event in San Francisco in June?
Limited time offer on Android
Swype had been in beta testing since March 2010 and only last week became a non-beta product. Now Android users can buy the full version for 65p, a “limited time offer”, or test it for free for one month. It’s good to see multi-device users don’t have to buy a version for both smartphone and tablet as it offers several modes for different screen sizes built-in.
Smartwatch soft keyboard
Other soft keyboard related news I saw today was a new system called “Zoomboard”, designed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. This keyboard is designed especially for very small screens, like those on smartwatches (see above). There is a demo of it here which can run on a touch screen device like a smartphone or tablet. (On a computer without touch-screen it didn’t work for me but my tablet was fine) This tiny keyboard worked acceptably but slowly. I hope there is something better in the pipeline.