The worst part about getting used to a whole different kind of phone is the touch input. People who used phones with keypads, qwerty or otherwise, find it pretty difficult to get accustomed to touch-only input. Some people even put off buying a touch-only phone because they don’t think they can ever get used to it.
There are some pretty nice alternatives to using the standard touch keyboard, and though they probably never will replace true physical keypads, they make input on your Android phone much easier. Here’s a look at some of them.
Graffiti for Android
If you ever used a Palm, Tungsten, Zire or Handspring PDA or phone, you would be familiar with their input method, called Graffiti. Released by Access Co. Ltd., the owner of PalmSource, Graffiti for Android brings the immensely popular Palm single-stroke input method to Android.
Instead of typing on a touch screen keyboard, Graffiti provides you with a blank space where you can draw letters in a single stroke to input them. Graffiti provides you with a list of strokes for characters and punctuation, with the left side of the input box dedicated to drawing alphabets and punctuation, and the right side for numbers and symbols.
Be advised, though, if you haven’t used Graffiti before, the learning curve is a bit steep and will take some time to get used to.
Price: Free (Ad supported) or Rs. 150 (No ads)
SwiftKey X offers a standard keyboard with incredible auto-complete and auto-correction. On setting up, SwiftKey scans your emails, text messages, Facebook and Twitter to be able to better predict words that you might use.
Not only does it complete the word you’re typing, but it also offers you choices on what word you might type next! The keyboard in itself is skinnable and resizable, and you can make it look as close to the stock keyboard as possible.
SwiftKey also has a fairly accurate voice input, gestures support and support for all keyboard layouts.
However, the kicker is that if your phone has a physical qwerty keypad, or you have a Bluetooth keyboard, SwiftKey integrates its own auto complete, prediction and autocorrect to work with your hardware keyboard.
Price: Rs. 200 (No ads) or Free Trial available
My personal favorite, Swype is a simple method of input. Instead of typing words one letter at a time, Swype lets you slide through the letters in one stroke. For example, if you’re typing ‘hello’, instead of touching all the keys individually, you just have to slide your finger over h, e, l, l and o in one stroke. Strokes don’t have to be exact, Swype will detect the words even if you slide through approximately the correct letters.
Swype inserts all spaces automatically each time you lift your finger to Swype the next word. It has an extensive dictionary with the ability to add words, and it automatically inserts all the names from your phonebook.
Swype also functions as a regular touch screen keyboard, so you can switch from Swyping to regular touch input effortlessly. It takes some getting used to, but once you do it is indispensable.
Many phones have Swype preloaded, but if not, you can grab a free beta version from http://www.swype.com
Price: Free (beta)
SlideIT’s functionality is somewhat similar to Swype, with the method of input being swiping from letter to letter, but many people prefer SlideIT to Swype because they find it to be more accurate.
SlideIT’s auto-complete function is slightly better, and it has the added advantage of being able to tap the first few letters and swipe the rest. SlideIT is also skinnable, so you can customize the look as you please. Another unique feature on SlideIT is handwriting recognition. Though I found it to be somewhat inaccurate, I’m sure it would have given me better results with a little practice.
On the downside, this app is the most expensive one on this list.