As mentioned in my previous post, I recently bought a new Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini that’s powered by Google’s Android OS. I’ve had it a little over a week now, and I’ve been discovering more and more new stuff to play with!
Like Apple iPhone’s iTunes App Store, there’s also an Android Market available on the phone, where I can search for and download apps. Currently, only selected free apps are supported in the Singapore version, which is fine since I’m a bit of a cheap-skate who prefers free than paid. But certain premium apps that I’d like to own permanently is only available as time-limited free trials in the Android Market, which gets frustrating sometimes. Luckily, with the sudden surge in manufacturers putting out new Android phones, and more and more people taking notice of the Android OS, more and more developers are producing fun and cool apps for this relatively new mobile platform. Here’s some of the apps I have on my phone right now.
I’ll like to highlight some of my favorite apps here, but I’ll probably have to do it in parts since, as you can see, I’ve got quite a few.
Today’s main focus will be on touchscreen keyboards for Android. We’re all used to the traditional T9 and QWERTY keyboard layouts on the phone, but typing on the phone is still quite a challenge when you’re using the touchscreen instead of a physical keyboard, particularly on the QWERTY layout, where the keys are much more cramped. Recently, there has been a new trend of keyboards where all you have to do is to slide or swipe your finger from one letter to another without lifting it up to form a complete word. The more common and popular ones which I’ll list here are the SlideIT keyboard, the ShapeWriter keyboard and the Swype keyboard. Something to note here is that these keyboards are not exclusive to the Android platform alone, most if not all of them are available for the iPhone and Windows Mobile as well.
This is the first “slide” keyboard I’ve tried and I took to it like fish to water. I loved it! It’s snappy and smart enough to figure out words from the doodles that I draw on the screen, even very long and complicated words. I found myself typing much faster with this than on the default T9 keyboard. There’s even a Graffiti feature that let’s you draw numbers and special symbols. Pretty cool! Here’s a video of the SlideIT keyboard in action.
The only couple of gripes I have with it is that the capitalization isn’t too smart. It also a bit of a hassle to input numbers and special characters as I’ll have to touch one of the shortcut keys to switch to the numeric/special character layout.
The free version available on the Android Market is time-limited to 30 days, and like I’m unable to get the paid version anywhere. The guys from Dasur, the company behind the SlideIT product have said in reply to my query, that the Android paid version will be available for sale on the website soon.
Since I couldn’t get a paid version of SlideIT, I decided to search for other options out there. I discovered ShapeWriter, which is a free alternative. The look and feel is similar, but ShapeWriter has smarter capitalization, and the number pad is much cuter. Entering special characters on ShapeWriter is also much easier as all you need to do is to long touch the key to access the special character behind. I’ve read about some complains about ShapeWriter’s accuracy on some forums, but I have no issues with it so far. Here’s a video of ShapeWriter in action.
ShapeWriter has announced that they plan to take the ShapeWriter keyboard off the Android Market on June 20th 2010 for an indefinite period of time. Users are strongly urged to download the latest Version 3.0.9, which does not expire. So if you have an Android device and are thinking of finding a free alternative to replace your current touchscreen keyboard, now is the time!
This 3rd and last keyboard that I’m featuring here is a little special, because it is the only which I’ve not had a chance to try hands-on. I signed up for the close beta on their website, and was invited. However, I was unable to install the keyboard ultimately as it says that the screen size of my X10 Mini is not supported. How disappointing.
Nonetheless, this is by far the most popular slide/swipe keyboard out in the market today. Here’s a video of Swype in action.
I hope you’ve found this short review helpful. More next time!