Hate Your Keyboard After Upgrading to Jelly Bean? You Need SwiftKey

I was listening to an episode of TWiT last week and someone on the panel mentioned that Jelly Bean OS becoming available for Samsung Android smartphones on a variety of carriers. I was thrilled to find out that it became available for Telus clients in late April (to check if your phone qualifies, check the Telus software updates page).

So naturally, as soon as I got the chance I upgraded. The UI is very slick, there are lots more widgets and I love the customizable permanent button set on the bottom of the screen. Of course, I also loved these 6 months ago when I got Jelly Bean on my tablet. The thing that struck me about this upgrade, though, was the ridiculously unresponsive keyboard.

My tablet comes with an external keyboard so I rarely use the on-screen one. As well, given the size of the tablet and my doll hands, I don't use Swype on it. It's just not comfortable. So, I never noticed that the keyboards built into the Jelly Bean OS suck.
And they suck hard.
At least they do for my Samsung Galaxy S II X.
The Samsung keyboard doesn't Swype.
The Google voice keyboard does Swype but just barely. Every. Word. Wrong.
And given that I have had my phone for 18 months, I am completely addicted to Swype so this was a HUGE downgrade.

[Aside: If you've never Swyped, it's functionality that enables the user to drag their finger across the screen to type words. You basically smear your finger from letter to letter and the predictive text guesses what you are trying to type. It's eons faster than typing (at least in my case) and a lot more stable when I'm tweeting one-handed stories on the bus :]

So, no Swype was a dealbreaker. I knew I need a hack for my phone because there was no way I was going back to my old OS. And clearly, I wasn't the only one having issues since the update, because my colleague Joy tweeted this morning:
Enter SwiftKey.

SwiftKey is a keyboard app that has a customizable interface, including multiple key sizes for fat fingered typists, and most importantly: Swype. You can enable multiple languages and you don't have to switch between them. You just type and it figures out which language you're using. Sometimes that means you end up being a bit of a snob because it will insert the appropriate spellings for words in the right language, in my case I have French and English so it inserts "protégé" instead of "protege" when I type in English. But us nerds like Type A software, right?

SwiftKey also has some learning talents: you can connect it to your social networks and other apps so that it can learn your typing habits and turns of phrases, then suggest them to you in sequence. As you tap the space bar to accept each word, it guesses the next if you appear to be typing a sentence that you use often. In fact, this feature was even immortalized in an XKCD comic:

Credit: XKCD

Seriously, if you're hating on your keyboard as much as I was, go give it a try. (SwiftKey is $3.99 Google Play but there is a free one-month trial available for download.)

Popular posts from this blog

Designing the team experience: Building culture through onboarding (Slides from PPPConf, Chicago 2018)

UX Theatre: Are You Just Acting Like You're Doing User-Centered Design?

UX Theatre: The Poster