Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

Summary: SwiftKey keyboard app for Android take predictive typing to a new level of accuracy.

SHARE:

I had never really thought of myself as a "fat-finger" typist - until the first time I tried to hammer out a message on a Blackberry keyboard. I was all thumbs, so to speak. And over the years, it hasn't gotten much better.

Touch-screen keyboards kept the letters too close to each other for my fingers, which meant that every "B" ended up being an "N" while every "E" became and "R" and so on. And when auto-predict typing was added in, well, let's just say I had to send my share of follow-up text messages that started with "Sorry. What I meant to type was... "

The closest thing I'd had to a better system was the "Compact QWERTY" keyboard on the Blackberry Pearl, one that had two letters on each key - somewhere between a traditional QWERTY and the numeric, triple-tap keyboard. This compact QWERTY was on my Android smartphone and I thought I would use it forever. And then I heard about SwiftKeyX, a predictive typing app for Android.

I'm not big on writing about mobile apps and I certainly wasn't convinced that some $3.99 app was going to change my life. Boy, was I wrong. I'm officially hooked - and I would definitely pay $3.99 (or more) for this app.

Finally, here was a keyboard that seemed to understand the frustration that we fat-finger typists experience. The predictive technology to offer suggestions about what I'm trying to type is the best I've ever seen - and not because some pre-loaded dictionary understands how people communicate. SwiftKey has the ability to learn from all of the typing that you do on a smartphone - from your email account, your Facebook postings, your tweets and even your SMS text messages.

My Swiftkey keyboard knows, for example, that most of my text messages start with "Hola," "I," or "Hey" and prepopulates those words into three buttons at the top of the keyboard. The words in those buttons change dynamically based on what I'm typing and what word is most likely to be next. What's great is that the next word is automatically entered when I hit the space bar, creating a natural, uninterrupted flow. And that's not even what's most impressive.

My SwiftKey keyboard stores up to three languages in its memory, though it supports dozens more with the latest version. As such, it recognizes when I'm speaking "Spanglish," switching back and forth between English and Spanish the way I do with some of my friends. Even when my fat fingers tapped out "pkaua," the app knew that I probably meant "playa," the Spanish word for "beach." And it was right.

The app sells for $3.99 and is available only for Android at this point. Apple's closed system apparently isn't big on apps that take over key features of the iPhone, including its keyboard. That's unfortunate for iPhone users because this app is far and away better than anything I've seen in a touchscreen keyboard. The app, which is available in the Android Marketplace, also comes as a free 30-day trial, which is more than enough time to learn from your typing habits.

As an added bonus, the app also provides some analytics about your typing habits. In the couple of weeks that I've been using it, it tells me that I have become 30 percent more efficient, saving more than 5,000 keystrokes (probably mostly backspaces). It has corrected more than 1,300 (and counting) of my typos, predicted more than 100 of my next words and completed or corrected more than 850 of my typed words.

Fat fingers, remember?

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Smartphones

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

17 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    And yet, you all seem to ignore Swype, which does the same thing, as well as boosting speed ridiculously simply because you can't fat finger it.
    Aerowind
    • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

      @Aerowind If Swype doesn't come on your phone, you have to jump through hoops to get a beta release. Also, I have found that entering messages of any length in Swype makes my fingertips feel strange (wipe your finger on a glass for 5 min...) This app was free on the Amazon Appstore a few weeks back and is very cool.
      tronmech
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    Seems it works alot like my Windows Phone. One thing it doesn't do is give me a start word for my messages, but usually all my messages start different so that doesn't really matter to me.
    OhTheHumanity
    • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

      @OhTheHumanity Check out how the on screen keyboard on Windows Phone 7 works. Very interesting read: http://windowsteamblog.com/windows_phone/b/windowsphone/archive/2011/04/28/the-science-behind-the-windows-phone-keyboard.aspx
      Jeff Richardson
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    It sounds as if you are being sponsored for this. It's great if you are, but I'd appreciate if you let us know about it!
    If you aren't I would have liked to hear about some other alternatives keyboards, like Swype, or SlideIt, or Smart Keyboard.
    tassaramar
    • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

      @tassaramar Swiftkey/X is my favorite keyboard, too. I speak Itanglish :-) so being able to predict words in both languages with no user intervention is a big bonus.

      SlideIt and Smart Keyboard are not even close. I think I have pretty much *all* Android keyboards on my Captivate, update them regularly, and check them out periodically. I keep going back to Swiftkey/X.

      Swype is great, too, except that its predictive engine is not as good as Swiftkey's, and you do have to switch languages manually
      msiniscalchi
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    So, do you think you have enough apps running in the background? Just take a look at your notification area. For shame. :)
    techtastic83
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    Swiftkey is definitely the best of the lot. I'm constantly amazed at it's ability to correctly guess the next word I was going to type.
    sah42
  • Tablet version not so great

    There is a tablet version of this app that has mixed reviews (many not so good). I was going to buy it yesterday but changed my mind after reading the reviews. It appears to have problems with 7" tablets in particular. My tablet is a Galaxy Tab 7". I went with another keyboard product.
    dachba
  • Shame it doesn't fix typos!

    My SwiftKey keyboard stores up to three languages in its memory, [b]thought[/b] it supports dozens more with the latest version.
    s2926
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    Tried it. As far as my fat fingers hitting the wrong key goes, this keyboard seemed no different. But the error correcting and predictive stuff is pretty good.
    Scarface Claw
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    If you fat finger your buttons, try Big Buttons Keyboard. It doesn't do swype, but I type faster now.
    watunda
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    My solution:
    Logitech Dinovo Mini. My Evo fits into the top cover (albeit modified). The whole thing fits in my coat pocket. Typing on it now.
    crooozin
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    "Smart Keyboard Pro" is so much better....

    But they all seems to lack a basic spell checker.
    ProfQuatermass
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    Another SwiftKey fan, here. Swype sounded really cool, so I tried it and liked it not at all. On the other hand, my wife likes Swype pretty well. So some folks like one tool, and others like another. Go figure ...
    _JohnH
  • RE: Fat-finger typists rejoice! Finally, a smartphone keyboard for us

    Big Buttons Keyboard increases accuracy a lot for us in the sausage finger brigade.
    watunda
  • Re Fat Fingers

    Swift type? Love it, love it, love it!!! Thanks so much for this. My sausage fingers are now hitting the right keys and texting/mailing accurately. Great stuff!
    operaspurs