Way back in March of 2010, Swype launched a super private Beta of its then totally mind-blowing (and now often imitated) swipe-to-type Android keyboard. While they’ve since shipped it out-of-the-box on dozens of handsets, opened the Beta to pretty much anyone, and sold for $100M, they’ve never gotten around to ditching that Beta tag — until today. (Three years in Beta? Who do they think they are, Google? ZING.)
This morning, Swype hits the Google Play store for the first time.
Swype will actually launch on Google Play in two separate versions: a free trial version that’ll work for 30 days, and a 99c version that, of course, works forever. The company says they’ll roll the two builds into one eventually, but didn’t want to worry about the complexities of In-App purchase stuff in this first release. Also, don’t be surprised if that 99c price goes up after a few weeks.
Though the Swype Beta program has been open to just about anyone with a passing interest since June of 2010, getting it onto your handset has always been a pretty convoluted process. You needed to punch in your email details (they later dropped this requirement), configure your handset to allow app downloads from third-party sources, then rig up an installer which did all the required system tweaking. It wasn’t brain surgery, but it wasn’t nearly as easy as hopping into the Play Store and tapping “Install”.
Meanwhile, the competition has flooded in. While Swype (now a division of Nuance) focused on partnering with OEMs to get its keyboard installed on handsets at the factory, alternatives like SwiftKey, SlideIT, and ShapeWay were happy to go straight to the consumer. Hell, even Android’s own official built-in keyboard picked up a similar feature as of version 4.2.
So are they hitting the Play Store too late? Perhaps — but it seems they don’t mind.
“Yeah, we might be late. That’s an honest concern,” Aaron Sheedy, Nuance’s VP of Mobile Product, told me in an interview, “But the adoption of smartphones is still just so huge, and there’s a whole generation of people just coming online. Our language coverage is such that we’ll do really well in the [international] markets; we’ve got [support for] 62 languages, plus a bunch of dialects.”
And if they are too late? It doesn’t matter too much. OEMs like Samsung and Nokia are still paying the company licensing fees on every Swype-enabled handset, and they see that being their primary source of revenue for quite some time.
(As for when Apple is going to give in and Swype-ify the quickly antiquating iOS keyboard: while the company says they’ve met with Apple every few months to give’m heck for the state of their keyboard, there hasn’t been any official progress on that front.)
If you’ve already got Swype installed on your handset, the version hitting the Play Store today should look much like what you’ve grown accustomed to. It does pack at least three features that were previously exclusive to Beta users, however:
- “Living Language”: Swype will automatically detect where you are when a phone is turned on and add local words to its dictionary (like Singlish words if you’re in Singapore).
- Smart Touch: If you regularly tap between two keys rather than directly on the one you mean, Swype will automatically adjust to your sloppy key presses and tune its predictive texting accordingly.
- Smart Editor: In addition to predicting what words you’re about to type based on those that you’ve typed so far, Swype analyzes full sentences as soon as you punch in the punctuation. If it spots a word that doesn’t generally work in that context, it’ll underline it and offer up the word it thinks you mean if you tap it.
Swype hasn’t hit the Play Store just yet, but it should be up within the next hour or so. We’ll update this post with a link as soon as it goes live.Update: It’s live! Here’s the 30 day free trial version, and here’s the 99c version.