After last month’s full launch of its Si Evolution Qwerty alternative, invisible keyboard maker SnapKeys is launching a second keyboard later today — called Si Revolution — that pushes the typing disruption even further by letting users tap anywhere on each of its four keys to form words. SnapKeys’ word-prediction technology does the rest, and with so few precise taps required, this keyboard really can disappear entirely — with the user needing only to tap a basic general position on the screen to spell words.
This differs to the keyboard that came out of beta last month, Si Evolution, which also has just four letter islands but requires users to tap on the exact position of a letter within each island. That means Si Evolution is more accurate at word prediction, since it’s getting more accurate input data from the typist, but it’s slower to type on because the user still has to spend time correctly placing their finger on each letter.
SnapKeys’ CEO Benjamin Ghassabian likens the two keyboards in its Qwerty-attacking arsenal to the multi-tap and T9 text input methods of old-school mobile devices, when physical keys and not touchscreens were the norm. He says Si Evolution is SnapKeys’ multi-tap-style offering, requiring more physical effort to input words but less mental effort because the keys have fixed positions, while Si Revolution is its T9 equivalent.
“You had 40 percent of people using T9 and 60 percent of people using multitap although multitap was harder, because it took more resource, because with T9 they made more mental effort,” he tells TechCrunch. “It’s exactly the same thing today for us. We are providing multitap, which is our Si Evolution, and we are also providing T9, which is our Si Revolution. So we are responding in this way to our whole audience.”
If you’re wondering how to type letters T to Z on the Si Revolution keyboard, that requires tapping in between the letter islands.
There’s undoubtedly a risk of SnapKeys’ muddying the waters here, by offering two Qwerty alternatives, rather than just concentrating and doubling down on pushing one, but its clearly hoping that giving options to its users will help drive adoption — at least in the short term. Ultimately, says Ghassabian, it reckons the Si Revolution keyboard will be “the standard” — being as it’s better suited to the touchscreen space, more disruptive and therefore more flexible.
On the Si Revolution keyboard, with just four keys to press and basically just two positions for each of the two typing fingers/thumbs to adopt (up or down), it’s faster to type (once the typing method has been learnt) and can most easily deliver on SnapKeys’ long-standing “invisible keyboard” promise. If you know you only need to tap up or down on the screen in a rough grid to form words, you don’t need any visible letter islands to guide you.
Of course, getting to the point where all visual cues can be removed entirely is going to take time. Which explains SnapKeys taking small steps to make sure it brings the users along with it — by, for instance, offering two keyboards with slightly differing input methods. It’s clearly hoping Si Evolution users will find it easy to upgrade to Si Revolution, once they’ve got comfortable with its alphabetic key layout.
Ghassabian says SnapKeys sees future monetisation not in charging for or licensing its keyboard software but via its LetSnap messaging app — also announced last month — which combines its space-freeing keyboard with a photo-messaging app, allowing users to write notes on top of pictures to send visual messages to friends. It plans to add a SnapShop to this app where users will be able to buy photos for one-time use to send as messages within the app, with SnapKeys taking a revenue share with the photo supplier.
He also said it envisages advertising potential for monetising its keyboard software — assuming it achieves enough traction of course — thanks to the additional screen space being freed up. “Because we are freeing screen real-estate we can provide here and there advertising,” he said. “Maybe on one of the keys for a period of time, for a few seconds.”
The Si Revolution keyboard is due to land on Google Play later today.