Software Wes Novack on 13 Nov 2011

Swype: a better virtual keyboard for smartphones

Swype: a better virtual keyboard for smartphones
For the longest time, I was a big fan of a physical keyboard on a smartphone. It all started with my very first “smarter” phone, the HTC Dash (Excalibur), which ran Windows Mobile. Of course, WinMo didn’t have any touch capabilities, so a physical keyboard was a requirement.

From the dark days of WinMo, I transitioned over to Android, first with the T-Mobile (HTC) G1 and then over to the original Motorola Droid. One of the reasons I went with the Droid was due to the inclusion of the slide out, full QWERTY keyboard. Many other Android phones at the time (and to this day) opt to skip a physical keyboard altogether and for good reason. Physical keyboards add thickness, weight and cost to a device.

Suffice it to say, the default Android virtual keyboard leaves something to be desired, although it has improved some with newer Android updates. Even so, I still find the Android virtual keyboard lacking and unacceptable for use as a primary input method.

Enter Swype.

Getting in on the Swype for Android beta

When I first learned about a new virtual keyboard that allows you to “type” words by connecting all of the containing letters in one fluid motion (think connect the dots with letters), I immediately wanted to try it. Fortunately for me, at the time they were getting ready to launch their Android application and were accepting beta testers. I was accepted into the beta program and I’ve been happily using Swype ever since. Nowadays, I rarely use a physical keyboard on a smartphone.

Swype is available to OEM manufacturers (eg HTC, Samsung) and now comes pre-loaded on many Android phones. The app makes for a fantastic primary input method, no physical keyboard required.

Unfortunately, if you have an Android phone that did not come pre-loaded with Swype, you are probably out of luck. The app is noticeably missing from the Android Market, as the company does not make it available for consumer purchase. Bummer.

If you’re in the market to purchase a new Android phone, I highly recommend that you get one that includes Swype pre-loaded. I’ve tried an imitator (another slide-typing keyboard app) on Android and it was vastly inferior. Swype does it right.

If and when I need to transition to another keyboard, it’ll be a difficult adjustment for me after using and enjoying Swype for so long.

Swype virtual keyboard Pros

Easier to use than the standard Android virtual keyboard
Word suggest
Quick
Customizable
Google Voice input key

Swype virtual keyboard Cons

Not available in standalone form to consumers (not on Android Market)
Beta Updater buggy, often requiring uninstallation & then a fresh install
No install to SD card option

Update: The newer versions of Swype (3.26 and up) now provides automatic app updating. Finally!! No more hokey installer app to mess with.

Update 2: Swype has replaced the Google Voice input key with a “Dragon” voice input function.

Update 3: Swype is now available for 0.99 on the Google Play Store, for a limited time.

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