The advent of smartphones is challenging the future of some gadgets that broke into our lives as true revolutions and which seemed set in stone in our daily routine. Every time we add a new functionality to our mobile devices (via apps) a physical gadget becomes oldie and dies. Although many people cling to these gadgets as Gollum to his treassssure, the evolution is unstoppable, specially if it’s supported by more efficient and handy products.
The challenged gadget I wanted to talk about in this post is the keyboard; yes, that great invent that turns our ideas into documents through our fingertips. We were writing this way for more than a century thanks to the typewriter. Then, in the eighties, PCs entered the scene and we rapidly got used to keyboards since the input system was basically the same and what changed was the creation of digital documents. In the middle-nineties mobilephones changed the way we typed but its use was too specific: SMS composition. Finally, smartphones and tablets came up and mess this all up due to touchscreen.
Smartphones and tablets have become a proving ground in which the future of text input will be set. There are already different type of keyboards, some of them are just a digitalization of the old keyboards, although adding new features like word-prediction. Some other introduce new ways of input (like swiping). Finally, there’s a trend that wants to quit using keyboards in favor of voice-input, the so-called speech-to-text solutions. Let’s put some examples of them.
1. Swiftkey X Keyboard
This would be one of the best example of the first category: a keyboard that keeps the distribution of physical keyboards but introduce an excellent word-prediction engine, accuracy and fluency. It is high customizable since allows you to change themes, layout type and (QWERTY, AZERTY,…), keys distribution or languages (over 20). What really makes the difference is that Swiftkey X Keyboard allows you to enable up to three languages at once, including dictionaries and word-prediction for the three of them. I can only tell you good things of this keyboard since, actually, this is the one I’m using.
2. Swype or Touchpal Keyboard
Swype Inc. developed a new and innovative way of inputting text in our smartphones and tablets: Swype Keyboard. You just need to swipe one continuous finger or stylus motion across the screen keyboard to make. This system mixed with a word-prediction engine allows users to input at over 40 words per minute. However, in the end this is a matter of taste and some users simply don’t like this system. However, those who do like, cannot switch to other system anymore. Swype was the first but not the only keyboard which is offering this input system. Actually, you can’t download Swype keyboard from Google Play (they decide not to distribute it this way): you need to download it from their website. On GPlay they’re great alternatives though. One of the best: Touchpal Keyboard. It supports both typing and swiping input, speech-to-text too, multi-language (you have to download language packs) and alternative symbols. It’s high configurable regarding layout type, themes and much more.
3. Speech-to-text: Iris, Skivy, Pocket Blonde… and other apps at Siri’s shadow
As we said above, there’s a trend which gives more importance to voice input. The consequence of this ways is the gradual extinction of the keyboard or the reduction of it to a symbolic use. In this regard, some apps are really into developing reliable systems of speech-to-text and TTS. The one who’s leading this trend is Siri (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface) which is an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator, only for iOS so far. There are some alternatives for Android though, and we’ve made a comparison in this post (Siri’s shadow) a few months ago.
What’s your opinion on the subject? Do you think the future of text input will go through Speech-to-text/TTS? Is there any hope for keyboards innovation and survival?
Emmanuel Lund, writer at Androidzoom.com when he’s not writing for AndroidZoom