Touch-typing keyboard apps for mobile devices flood Mobile World Congress

Fewer keys, more screen space

Another solution could be to limit the motion users have to make with their thumbs to complete a word or sentence.

That’s the philosophy behind Snapkeys Si, a new app for Android that takes a minimalist approach. Instead of a full-fledged QWERTY keyboard, Snapkeys Si presents only four buttons, which appear as a see-through overlay on your display.

Each of these buttons sports three letters—supposedly, the most commonly used consonants and vowels. If you need to use a letter or punctuation mark that isn’t associated with a button, you just tap in the middle.

See Snapkeys Si at work:

As you’re typing, Snapkeys predicts the word you’re trying to spell, and displays a list of suggestions on the right side of the screen; you then tap the word to select it. Because of the unique keyboard, its memory isn’t so hot, but you do have a way to add a word to your dictionary if Snapkeys can’t remember it.

Snapkeys Si officially launched here at MWC this week and is still in beta, so it’s a bit clunky. Plus, going from a full keyboard to only a few buttons takes some adjustment. This motion is less stressful on your thumbs, however, and the design offers one bonus.

“We want to help people get their screen real estate back,” says Hillel Porath of Snapkeys, “and once you get used to it, you can make the buttons invisible and type without them.”

Although Snapkeys is in beta, it’s free in the Google Play Store and is available in English and Spanish, with more languages in development.

Connect the words

Some people find it more comfortable to skip typing altogether, which is what makes Swype such a popular technology.

TouchPal Keyboard has had letter-to-letter swipe technology in its keyboard for quite some time; using it involves sliding your finger across the keyboard to reach the letters you want, and it predicts the word you’re trying to “type.”

At MWC this week, however, the company announced that an upcoming update to TouchPal Keyboard due in March 2013 will bring word-to-word swiping.

This update, called TouchPal Wave, introduces gestures that create full sentences. To use it, you start sliding to type as usual, but after you enter the first word, Wave will guess what you’d like to say next. For example, if you want to say, “Hi, looking forward to seeing you,” start swiping from letter to letter to spell it out in full. Soon, your keyboard will list a few words it thinks you’re trying to find.

Over the L key, TouchPal will show the word looking, over the F it will have forward, and over the T, it will say to. You simply swipe from word to word to string the sentence together.

As with other keyboards, the more you use TouchPal, the more it learns about you, and the better it can predict what you intend to say next. This approach helps swipers input words much faster than they could before.

Whatever the method, predictive-text and keyboard technologies are getting smarter and more efficient than ever before, as these third-party apps demonstrate.

With this new wave of services crashing into the Android market, mobile OS developers need to start paying attention, because their standard offerings just aren’t cutting it.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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