In yesterday’s Samsung Galaxy S review, I failed to mention one of my favourite features of the new Android phone – it comes pre-loaded with a sophisticated text input method called Swype, which completely changes the way you type on your phone.
We first heard about Swype back in 2008, but it was only playing with the Galaxy S that I really got to try the text input method first hand. For those who can’t be bothered clicking the link, Swype is a touchscreen typing UI developed by Cliff Kushler, one of the brains behind the T9 interface. It allows you to drag a finger around the keyboard to the letters you need to make a word, which the software then interprets into the word you wanted.
The first time I tried Swype at the Galaxy S launch, I was blown away.
Since then, I’ve spent a fair bit of time using Swype, and it gets better the more you use it. The accuracy in picking out words as your finger glides over the touchscreen is truly impressive. It’s easy to pick up too, although you really need to watch the tutorial in order to get the most out of the system.
But despite being easy to use, it’s actually quite a difficult system to master. Little things like dragging your finger above the keyboard after the first letter of a sentence to get a capital is something you tend not to think about while typing out a quick SMS. As is adding punctuation – apostrophes for contractions, for example.
But having said that, it’s not an easy system to master. Even after weeks of use, I still fall into the habit of typing words instead of Swyping. Alternatively, I forget to lift my finger between words, dragging the Swype down to the spacebar in the hopes that it will add a space for me. It never does.
It’s also worth noting that Swype is essentially useless if the phone is in landscape mode. It’s a one-finger input system, and trying to Swype with two thumbs is a fruitless exercise.
The Galaxy S isn’t the only smartphone to use Swype, which is a great thing for all smartphone users. The Swype business model is to license the technology to phone makers, so you can’t actually download it for your current phone, although the company did launch a limited beta for download last month, which means it might become an optional app at a later date.
In any case, it is definitely something to consider when you’re picking your next phone. As far as usability goes, it is totally worth it.