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Swype gesture keyboard may be on its way to Apple's iOS

by Mark Tyson on 29 April 2013, 16:00

Tags: Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), PC

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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.

Swype refresher

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.

Apple negotiations

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.

HEXUS Forums :: 6 Comments

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It already works fine on Swiftkey… bit late to market perhaps? Surely as well, if they're going to start selling on iOS, the store will equally be open for all of the established android players?
Fastest Time to Type a Text Message? nope. Way too laggy of an app in my experience, even with an S3. Swiftkey is much much more responsive.
It already works fine on Swiftkey… bit late to market perhaps? Surely as well, if they're going to start selling on iOS, the store will equally be open for all of the established android players?
Hmm, wasn't the keyboard on the Galaxy S3 admitted to be a licensed copy of Swype? In which case if Swype does make it into iOS as the official keyboard then there's a example of Apple copying Samsung. :p

That said, I'm tempted to try “real” Swype because post-update my Samsung badged version seems to have developed an interesting line in predictions - picking some very strange alternatives to what I thought would be common words - at one point last week it seemed to have developed a fixation on “avatar” which seemed to pop up (wrongly) in most of my messages. :(
@Crossy - Try swiftkey - Its a lot better my experience and is regularly on offer. Its prediction engine is pretty good - often saving me typing any words at all. I think its on sale now too - if not it usually goes on offer once every few months.
If anything like is going to happen I hope (as an iOS dev myself) that Apple just open up the APIs and allow a new class of ‘app’ that is an update to the OS.

- Apps that replace the keyboard with a new implementation
- Apps that update the multitasking UI
- Apps that tie into siri
- Apps that interact with the lock screen (I don't want this, but others seem to)
- Apps that interact with their icon (Live tiles?)

All are really easy for Apple to allow with stability, user protection and device unification all being handled by clever API / SDK choices and the existing app approval process.