One of the more pleasant surprises to using my HTC Droid Incredible Android OS phone was how easy it was for me to touch type. The Incredible has a virtual / onscreen keyboard, and I was worried about the lack of a physical keyboard.
I can touch type on the HTC SenseUI’s IME keyboard at about 40WPM. The IME keyboard’s predictive system is pretty well-tuned to how I type, but every now and then I make a mistake, or IME interprets my taps incorrectly. My typing speed also goes down when I hold the keyboard in the portrait (straight up and down) position.
I read about Swype awhile ago. You trace letters on the keyboard, and Swype computes the words. Unfortunately Swype is not available for most Android devices. There was a time where you could get involved in a beta program, and there is a leaked binary floating around. I was too late to get into the beta and I didn’t want to sideload a cracked app, so continued to use the IME keyboard. That is, until I found SlideIT.
SlideIT (and some other keyboards, like the Ultimate Keyboard) utilize the same tracing / swiping style for text input. I was curious to see if the swiping would be as fast and as accurate as my touch-tapping. SlideIt had the 15 day trial period — the longest of swiping keyboards on the Android Market — and I gave it a try.
Here are my observations after ten days of use:
- It’s probably more accurate than touch tapping. SlideIT is pretty accurate if you focus on swiping at a consistent speed. If you are not a touch tapping, or have a hard time typing on your phone, then SlideIT or similar keyboards are probably an improvement for you.
- You have to know what you’re spelling. This seems dumb to type out, but it’s true. SlideIT loses its effectiveness if you can’t spell. I have no problem tracing out “thermonuclear” but if you put in too many wrong letters or scramble up the order too much there isn’t much SlideIT can do for you. If you don’t spell very well, the standard predictive tapping keyboard may be better for you.
- It works very well in portrait mode. Tracing with your thumb is easy, and in portrait orientation is much better than tapping.
- Good if you have big fingers. My friend Stilts mashes fifteen keys at once with a press of his giant fingertip. SlideIT and other swipe keyboards should be more accurate for people with larger fingers.
- Some of the SlideIT features are quirky. SlideIT has a built-in shortcut feature. For example, swiping the letters “ILY” and then tapping on the result will print “I love you.” You can make your own shortcuts, but they don’t always seem to work. I type “ILU” instead of “ILY” as my shorthand for “I love you,” but SlideIT doesn’t recognize the shortcut after I added it. There is also a quirk where SlideIT doesn’t consistently add spaces after completed words. I expect it to add a space so I can swipe the next word. This doesn’t work, unless I try to tap out a frowny face. WTF? The smiley face works fine, btw. Maybe this will get fixed in a future update.
- Slow down, and don’t get excited. Great wisdom for new lovers, but also good advice for new SlideIT users. I started tracing with a flourish when I realized how accurate SlideIt could be. It was fun to string letters together with a trace that resembled writing in cursive — until I realized I was screwing SlideIT up. Slow down just a little bit, and trace between the letters as directly as possible. You don’t have to have laser-like pathing, just do your best. SlideIT will take care of you.
For about $6, SlideIT isn’t the cheapest Android app out there. Ultimate Keyboard is less expensive and has more features, but the demo period is shorter. I’d suggest trying the free 15 day demo of SlideIT first. This should give you more than enough time to adjust to swiping vs tapping. If you want to evaluate Ultimate Keyboard then you can spend time evaluating the app instead of trying to figure out how swiping works.
For me, I’m sticking with SlideIT. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.