Again and again we are reminded of the benefits of the Android OS by the many different ways that the user is able to customize their phone to their liking. One of the best ways to customize your Android is through a replacement touch keyboard. Swype Beta was recently released for public consumption and we’ve taken the chance to install it and run it through the ringers.
Swype is more than just an on screen keyboard replacement. On top of the basic on screen keyboard functionality that is has, it can also recognize writing words by sliding your finger across the keyboard towards each letter in the word you want. Imagine squiggling your finger around the screen to write the word “automatically” or “awesome” or even some of your contacts names. Short version of the app review: It works, it works well and it’s surprisingly easy to learn and use.
So, you’ve stuck around to see why I think it works well and you want to know more. Great. Installation of the Beta version of Swype is accomplished through downloading an installer application, which requires your to log in etc and then downloads the actual app. However, that’s more than likely going to change upon release to the public via the Market. First thing you’ll notice is there is no application icon in your app drawer once installed. It’s hidden within the OS itself. To access Swype, open your Android settings and navigate to Language & Keyboard, or Locale settings page depending on the version of Android you are running.
Here you can select to enable Swype if you didn’t do so during installation. Also, you can adjust the Swype settings from here or wait until you use it for a while. However, if you are like me you’ll want to get into the settings right away. I turned off the sound and vibration from the settings page, but left everything else as default. There are a number of different options for Swype, including language. Right now, it comes with English and Spanish, but you can expect a full list of different languages upon release. Most of the settings are self explanatory, so be sure and review them, but I found default to be just fine on most of them, however, once again, customizing makes Android your phone.
After reviewing the settings, simply back out and get ready to use Swype. We’ll use the Text Message app to demonstrate Swype. You’ll notice the default keyboard is still loading upon opening the text application and starting a new text. One last step is required in order to start using Swype. Tap and hold on any text input box and it will show a pop up window. Choose select input and you’ll be given a choice.
Also, in case some of you are wondering why my keyboard might not look like yours, I am running an HTC Hero with Sense UI which comes with an HTC keyboard.
After selecting Swype, it’ll close the keyboard, you’ll have to wait a moment while the keyboard is switched in the background, then tap in the text input again and you’ll be presented with Swype. It appears as a basic keyboard with no obvious difference yet.
One of the first things you’ll want to do, after playing around a little is to press the lower left Swype button. This button will bring up the Tips Menu, which you’ll find less and less useful as you learn to use the Swype keyboard. Start with the tutorial and you’ll learn quickly what Swype is really all about.
Follow the directions on screen to view an example on how to use Skype which includes some training on entering text as well as a quick view of what it looks like while you’re “swyping” your new text messages.
Watch as the ghost finger traces out the words “Swype is quick.” and then try it out yourself. Want numbers, slick the SYM key, want to edit the text on the screen, swype from the lower left key, the Swype key, to the SYM key. The keys to success using Swype is learning the little tricks that help input those tricky situations. What about the word “see”? How do you “swype” that? Simply run your finger from “s” to “e” and circle, squiggle a little. Be sure and follow the tutorial at least once on how to enter capital letters without having to first “shift” and how to enter contractions easily. Again, it is very easy to learn and quick to pick up and before you know it you’ll be flying through sentences easily. One thing of note is that it includes the option for automatic capitalization of the first word in a sentence and auto spaces between words. However, as of the writing of this review, it did not place spaces between sentences automatically. Also, while it did know how to grab names from my contact list, it didn’t know to automatically capitalize those either. I was impressed that it found my wife’s name, Estefanía, and even gave the accent though I didn’t tell it to do that. Yes, it also handles accents. The help files are fairly large and help you figure out how to “swype” your way through any situation. If you are interested in trying out Swype Beta yourself, head on over to the Beta signup page and getting Swyping today.
UPDATE: Opps, looks like Swype has closed it’s Beta program. Luckily, with all those Beta testers working hard, Swype will be getting refined and perfected before coming to the Market soon.
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