I’ve written before about Using Super Smartphones for Productivity (and then an update on the same topic), but by far my smartphone productivity increased dramatically simply by using Swype, an input method for Android-based devices.
[The remainder of this post discusses an Android-only application, so you iPhone users are out of luck...except I do talk about Swype for the iPhone and an iPhone Swype alternative.]
My super smartphone of choice is the Motorola Droid; I’ve had one for almost eight months now. When I upgrade, I will upgrade to either the HTC Incredible or the Motorola Droid X—I haven’t thought much about it, because my Droid is dandy. One of the selling points of the original Droid was the slide-out physical keyboard, but I rarely used it because I became quickly (and completely) enamored of a beta version of the Swype virtual keyboard.
I demoed Swype to everyone I met. “Hey, you have to see this!” I would say as I shoved my phone in their faces, opened up my mobile Evernote to a blank note, and quickly “swyped” my demo words: obnoxious, ridiculous, elephant. At that point I would be lucky if the phone was still in my hand, as the person usually grabbed it to try it on their own. That’s how “sandwiches” became a demo word; a co-worker grabbed it, swyped quickly, and exclaimed “sandwiches!” in the time it would have taken to tap out half that word on a typical virtual keyboard. Swype learns words, too, which is handy for usernames and e-mail addresses like “nowviskie” and “kfitz”—not words you’d typically find in the dictionary.
What is Swype?
Swype is a virtual keyboard by which words are generated by tracing the path of the letters in the word in one continuous finger or stylus motion across the screen. The company claims one can swype in over 40 words per minute; I haven’t tested it, but I believe that number. That’s the point of this post: Swype has enabled me to be incredibly productive on my phone by quickly writing e-mails, sending tweets, and even commenting on student work (in Word doc files).
The basic “How to Swype” video explains the fundamentals:
Since I can’t hand you my smartphone and do my “obnoxious ridiculous elephants” demo, take a look at this video on speed:
To learn more about Swype, take a gander at their page of links to videos of tips and tricks.
How to Get Swype
As I noted above, Swype is currently available for Android devices only. It is preinstalled on a few phones such as the Motorola i1, Motorola CliqXT, Samsung Omnia II, myTouch 3G, HTC HD2, and the Nexus One (and it will be preinstalled on the upcoming Droid X), but is available for download by becoming a beta tester. If you have an Android device that does not already have Swype installed, I urge you to become a beta tester and give this a whirl.
Swype wants to be on the iPhone and they are working on a version; it remains to be seen if Apple will pick up the licensing for it. I have shown numerous iPhone users my Droid running Swype, and every single person has been deeply impressed and wanted it on their phone. I don’t blame them.
ShapeWriter is a similar application, available for Android as well as the iPhone. Additionally, some have suggested SlideIT, also available for Android, iPhone, and other devices. I have not used either application, because I am absolutely in love with Swype and tend to be very loyal to applications that fundamentally alter my relationship with my devices. However, if you try either alternative, do let us know about your experiences in the comments section below.
The folks behind Swype are no strangers to ground-breaking text entry methods; Cliff Kushler was part of the team that invented T9. T9 is the predictive text technology currently installed on billions of phones, smart or otherwise. Two years ago, Wired.com’s Gadget Lab published “Future Phones to Read Your Voice, Gestures”, in which the “speedier keypads” section featured Swype. In the post, Swype founder Cliff Kushler said “This is a game-changer”—which is exactly what I say in my demos…because it just is. However, Kushler has actual reasons while I just have enthusiasm and experience with the software: “You have a subconscious awareness of where things are on the keyboard.” Focusing on that subconscious ability and swype methodology rather than the need to tap out words (and hit the keys precisely) has exponentially increased my productivity.
On a day-to-day basis, I’m not a user of Apple products. I’ve held an iPad and worked with it for a little bit, but I’m no Kathleen Fitzpatrick. But my dream device right now isn’t necessarily an Android tablet (although that would be great). It’s a Swype-enabled iPad (and actually, kfitz expresses a similar sentiment in her second iPad post.
Are you a Swype user? Do you have positive or negative experiences to share? Do you use any of the alternate text inputs discussed, like ShapeWriter? What is your dream input mechanism for smartphones and/or tablets? Let us know in the comments.