Saturday, September 18, 2010

Swype - The next generation of text inputs !! :-)

People following me in twitter, facebook or my blog would have known that i recently joined the android community with the purchase of my htc wildfire. Ever since I bought my phone, there is this one thing that I'm madly in love with. It is supposed to be the next generation of input system for touch screens. With a simple tagline "Why type when you can swype", it is really one of the most amazing technologies I have ever seen in my life.

When I first got my phone, being the first time of using a touch phone, I was really happy about the basic touch input that is built in with android as it had a really nice auto corrector and I just needed to key in the text very very approximately. But the moment I installed and started using swype I never turned back. In this article I will be sharing an overview about what swype is, how to get swype for various smartphones and a few alternatives to swype.

What is swype ?

Swype is the most recent innovative technology for text inputs in touch screen based systems. Just like we have the T9 input system for traditional mobile phones, swype is for mobile phones with touch screens. In T9, there are either 3 or 4 characters assigned to a single numeric key and to key in text, you just have to press the correct combination of numbers associated with those particular characters and voila you have the text you wanted keyed in very easily. If there are multiple words possible for a particular combination then you choose the right word you wanted by either pressing the "*" key (in traditional nokia phones), or by pressing the down arrow (in sony ericsson and irritating motorola) or by pressing the "0" key (in the unconventional samsung phones). Once gotten used to, you will feel that T9 is the best way to key in texts in a mobile phone. It is indeed true and people even type without seeing the screen like we do in computers.



Swype is a similar technology for touch screen mobiles. In swype, instead of tapping each and every character in the qwerty virtual keypad shown in the mobile, you just have to elegantly trace through the path of the word you intend to type. Similar to T9, if there are multiple words in the path you traced, swype offers you the list of possible words for you to drag it into the input. You can be very approximate in your path trace yet swype recognizes your word almost perfectly all the times. Though it might sound simple and not very appealing at first, on using it you will realize that almost 90% of the words you type in have unique paths and hence, unlike T9, you very rarely will come across the ambiguous word choosing pop up.



Who can enjoy swyping ?


  • Android
    • Swype comes as a default input method along side touch input in many android devices.

    • If it doesn't come preloaded in your android device, then you can get the official swype beta from http://beta.swype.com. The official beta is closed now but you can download it through someone who has already registered with the beta was open (yes, it is legal to get any number of copies with a single registration! - and don't contact me as I didn't register when the beta was open).

    • If you didn't register for the official beta when it was open and don't know anyone who did, then this is the option for you. Download the apk file from some other source and install it in your device (which is what I've done in my phone). I am not posting any direct links here owing to legal reasons. It is available easily in 4shared.com. Find out the type of display your device has (VGA, QVGA, HVGA, etc.), download the appropriate version and install it.


  • Windows mobile
    • Few devices with windows mobile comes with swype preinstalled. I am not familiar about other options of getting swype for windows mobile.



  • Symbian
    • Swype has partnered with symbian and recently released a public beta for S60 5th edition based symbian phones (nokia 5800, 5230, 5233, N97, N97 Mini to name a few). You can download and install swype for symbian from Nokia Beta Labs. All the installation instructions are also briefed in that page.

    • One drawback i faced with swyping in symbian is that, most of the symbian devices have less sensitive resistive touch screens when compared to their capacitive counterparts in android devices. Although, it is convenient to swype with nails in the symbian devices which is not possible with the capacitive based android devices.




When is swyping easy ?

  • When you are just done with a call and your phone is slightly wet out of your cheeks

  • When have completely dry hands after a long rest of hands (e.g. after a sleep)


When is swyping not so easy ?

  • When you have just washed your hands and wiped it dry using a kerchief/tissue

  • When your hands are wet of course

  • If your fingers are a little bit bigger, then you may have to switch orientation every time you key in text


Alternatives to swype

Every emerging technology is never unique these days. There are always multiple implementations of a single technology and swype is no exception. Here are a few alternatives if swype that I have tried out.


  • Dasur SlideIT Keyboard

    • This is the best alternative for swype I have seen so far. I was using this before I could figure out swype installation in my device.

    • One feature that it had and swype lacks is shortcuts. You can store tiny shortcuts for frequently used lengthy words.

    • The dictionary is no where close to swype's preloaded dictionary of 60000 words. Although, many language packs are additionally available for free.

    • It is available for all major smartphone platforms (android, symbian, windows mobile and even for windows ce). It can be downloaded from the official market of your smartphone ( android market, ovi store, etc. ).

    • For more details visit here.


  • T-Swipe Pro

    • This is a swype alternative that is available only for android devices as far as i have explored.

    • It is a stable piece of software that is terribly slow in recognizing what you swipe.

    • The trial version shows you irritating pop ups asking you to register for full version which is definitely not worth upgrading to.

    • If you badly want to swipe and both swype and slide it key board doesn't work in your device ( which is a very rare case ), then this may be your final destination. I am damn sure you need the patience of handling a tortoise to use this.


To conclude, Swype is definitely one of the major breakthroughs in mobile technology and I am pretty sure that soon enough, swype will be the de facto standard for text input in touch screens. Hoping to see more and more OEM installed swype devices soon.

Note:
This article has been composed entirely in a mobile device using the following input systems:
  • This note is keyed in using the traditional touch input system for android

  • The section about SlideIT Keyboard was keyed in using SlideIT Keyboard itself

  • The section about T-Swipe Pro was keyed in using T-Swipe Pro itself

  • The rest of this article was keyed in using none other than swype itself :-)


P.S.: Thanks to AK Notepad.

-Vignesh