University of Toronto-founded interaction design startup Whirlscape has made its beta available to the general public today, after a closed trial period following its successful Indiegogo funding campaign. Whirlscape’s first product is the MInuum Keyboard, a software input method that compresses a full QWERTY down to one line, opening up screen space while building in lots of text prediction to make it easy to type without thinking too much.
The Minuum project on Indiegogo raised $87,354, far exceeding its initial goal of just $10,000. Backers got early access to the keyboard app as a beta for Android, and now that pool of users is being broadened via the Google Play store. Whirlscape has decided to charge $3.99 for its app, even in beta form, which is a sure suggestion that it’s had a lot of interest in its early campaign. Backers actually bid a minimum of $5 for access, so it’s a discount from the original in fact, according to the company.
Often, makers of keyboard software on Android charge money for their products. SwiftKey is paid, and also charges $3.99, so it isn’t without precedent, and it’s harder to put the genie back in the bottle in terms of offering something free and then charging for it later than doing things the other way around.
Minuum has had a high user retention rate so far, with around 8,000 users active over the past two months of the initial pool of 9,500 who signed up for early access via the Indiegogo campaign. The iOS version is planned for the end of the year as a demonstration app aimed at developers (who need to build Minuum into their own apps, since Apple doesn’t allow a user to change the default software keyboard), Whirlscape’s Maria Lioutaia tells me. For now, users with Android smartphones or tablets can join in the public beta, however.
There have been a lot of updates since the first launch, but the beta label remain until Whirlscape can localize to a number of different languages, which is what the startup is working on next.