Road Worrier Tries Out Swype

Slide-to-type input system Swype is proving increasingly popular with Android phone manufacturers. How well does it perform under Road Worrier's demanding (and touch-screen-unfriendly) fingers?

The concept of Swype is pretty simple: rather than individually pecking out each letter on a touch screen phone, you slide your fingers from letter to letter and the software works out what you meant. While Swype was made available as a limited beta for all Android models earlier this year, the company's main business model is to license the system to phone manufacturers. As such, I put it through its paces on the Samsung Galaxy S. (You can install the similar SlideIT on most Android phones.)

While it feels a little improbable that Swype could actually recognise what you intended as your finger drifts all over the screen, it actually does a pretty stellar job of recognising what you mean most of the time. I totally agree with Nick over at Gizmodo that you need to run through the tutorial first to work out the quirks of typing capitals and double-letters, but after that it's all fairly straightforward, and your speed does improve with a little practice.

There are a couple of annoying limitations. As Nick noted, it's not much use in landscape mode: it works well enough, but the process of typing actually takes longer given that the keys are further apart. Shorter words seem less amenable to recognition: I kept having to retype or confirm 'it', for instance.

I was slightly appalled to discover that Swype doesn't recognise many common swearwords; I promise you I don't want to type 'duck' or 'count' that often. Sure, you can add them yourself, but the reality is people swear when they communicate (especially via text messages) and I don't want my input system passing implied judgement on what I can or can't say.

More tellingly, while it does feel kind of magical, it also feels kind of slow: after each word, there's a definite pause while the system works out what you mean and you work out what it's got wrong. This definitely interrupts the rhythm of writing. I wouldn't want to enter huge chunks of text this way, but I guess I would prefer this kind of touch input to the standard touch-screen keyboard found on Android devices (or iPhones). That said, I certainly couldn't use it to take notes at press conferences, which is something I do quite regularly on my BlackBerry.

I recognise that most people don't want to write large screeds of text on their mobile, and in that context Swype is definitely appealing. I don't think I'd limit myself to choosing Android phones that featured it, but if it is available, it's a handy extra touch.

Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman wonders if screen wipe manufacturers have seen profits rise in the last couple of years. His Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.


Comments

    I've been using SlideIT for Android - from what I've read it's just as good as Swype and doesn't lag. The best feature is the ability to setup shortcuts. When I type/swype eml for example it'll enter my email address etc.

    I've been using Swype since getting my Galaxy S (about 3 weeks now) and absolutely love it..

    Although there are a few things that should have been included in the tutorial that aren't..
    E.g. if a list selection shows up (such as when typing "it") and it's at the top of the list, start typing the next word as the 1st item will automatically be used.. Also, an extremely useful option that I only found on forums is to bring up the navigation keyboard - start on the swype button (bottom left hand corner) and drag to the the button on the immediate right (usually "SYM") to get arrow directions, select, page up/down, Copy/Cut/Paste..

    Hmm, I don't find much lag, if any, on a virtually equivalent 1GHz device. Maybe because it has learned the words I typically use. Shortcuts can also be configured with Swype (see video tutes).

    The other great thing is that you can fairly easily get your hands on the install package (apk) and install it on devices that don't have Swype as standard.

    I'm with you Adam, after a few weeks of use, I'm finding I can punch out texts in no time flat, it was the one thing that convinced me to get a phone (Galaxy S) without a physical keyboard.

    Much faster than the full qwerty on the E71 for instance.

    Duck! You'd have to be a total count to not like this review!

    The thing about swear words: Swype DOES occasionally make the wrong choice, or pops up a list if it isn't sure. If kids are using it and swear words get typed by accident, I can see the concern. Perhaps there should be a preference to allow swear words or censure them. That way it is totally the user's choice.

      How many kids are (a) wandering around with Android phones and (b) don't know those words?

      I agree that a preference would be a good solution though.

        If Swype/SlideIT had swear words built-in then there would be people whining about that. Damned if you, damned if etc.

    I was playing with my wife's i9000 and while I was swyping (is that word?) a text I suddenly remembered that I hadnt installed Shape Writer on my i7500 since the last flash. Its basically a free version of Swype with a few added functions like the ability to do control keys with gestures and stuff. Personally I find it more accurate than Swype (for e.g. you dont have to do the little squiggle on a letter to make it register doubles) and it has far more features so I have no idea why Swype became more popular than it.

    Anyway. Thats not my story. The real story is it wouldnt show up on the Market when searching for 'ShapeWriter' or 'Shape Writer' so I thoughtI must have got the name wrong or whatever, and hunted it down on Androlib. Turns out they've taken it off the market as of June 20 for 'an indefinite amount of time', which totally blows because its a fantastic app.

    HOWEVER... using the QR Code provided, you can still access it on the market by going to its entry directly. Specifically:
    http://www.androlib.com/android.application.com-shapewriter-android-softkeyboard-jEpA.aspx

    QR Code here:
    http://www.filedump.net/dumped/shapewriter1278944116.png

    Translates to:
    market://details?id=com.shapewriter.android.softkeyboard

    So yeah. Get this immediately. Even if you dont want to use it right now, just grab it before it disappears. Its seriously brilliant, and IMO superior to Swype.

    Screenshot:
    http://www.filedump.net/dumped/shapewriter21278944558.jpg

    I have to agree swype input and other variants are much more useful, I've even managed to completely scribble all over the place looking for the right letters and it still picked up on what word I wanted.

    Been using it in live chat sessions over trillian, and only once in a while a strange word would sneak past my glances at checking but most of the time no one notices.

    Agree on swear words but that's kind of expected, it learns common words you use so you only have to manually type them once.

    +1 for SlideIT.
    it does everything i've read that Swype does plus more, with the added bonus of not stuffing around with Beta invites/versions etc.

    Just get SlideIT and be done with it.....

    props to trk for shapewriter! slideit demo just expired and needed a new free slide keyboard. cheers!

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