Exclusive Video: Hands-on With Swype For Android

I’ve been pretty pumped about Swype’s ultra-speedy alternative typing solution for touchscreen devices ever since it first debuted at TechCrunch50 2008. My excitement only grew when it finally made its way to a handset, the Omnia II, just last month – but as I’m not the biggest fan of the OS that powers that device, my thumbs were left twiddling until an Android port was released.

Earlier this morning, I got my hands-on a pre-release copy of just that: Swype for Android. So how is it? In a word: Great.

If you’re unfamiliar with Swype, here’s how it works: rather than typing words by tapping letter-by-letter, you swipe (swipe, Swype – Get it?) your finger (or a stylus) through the letters of each word. If you wanted to spell “DOG”, for example, you’d put your thumb down on D, slide it over to O, down to G, and then release. You don’t have to be perfectly accurate – in fact, you can be pretty sloppy and Swype will still figure out what you mean. If it’s not positive which word you meant, it’ll present a list of possible options. After a very very slight learning curve, Swype promises to be considerably faster than the standard hunt-and-peck keyboard input method.

Notes & Impressions:

  • I tested Swype on the Verizon Droid Eris. As far as I can tell, Swype is working properly on any Android-device with a WVGA (800×480 or 854×480), HVGA (480×320), or QVGA (320×480) resolution. This pretty much covers the gamut of Android smart phones.
  • After just a few minutes of get accustomed to Swype, I’m already typing a bit faster than I am on the standard Android keyboard. With a bit of practice, I could probably double my speed.
  • I’m surprised how sloppy I can be with my tracing before Swype starts tripping up. Once you start blasting away at it, it’s almost magical.
  • Works in both portrait and landscape mode
  • Currently appears to support US English, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish
  • Under options, you can pick your language, toggle Auto-spacing (inserts spaces after each word), Word prediction, Tip indicator (Flashes a tip indicator on the keyboard when it has hints for you), Disable sounds, set how long the Swype path is shown, tweak the Speed vs Accuracy settings (defaults work for me), and run through the Swype tutorial
  • It doesn’t know curse words out of the box. Duck you! However..
  • Adding words is simple: You just type them manually, letter by letter. I taught it every curse word I know in a minute or two.
  • Switching back and forth between Swype and the standard keyboard is a matter of holding your thumb on any text input box, hitting “Select Input Method”, and picking whichever keyboard you prefer.
  • Swype appears to work just fine in every Android app I’ve got on this device. One feature, however, requires apps to be modified for compatibility: double-tap correction. In any Swype-tailored app, you can double tap any word you’ve typed to be presented with a list of alternatives. All apps, Swype-enabled or not, will present a list of alternatives immediately after a questionable word is typed – you just can’t double tap them after the fact.

Overall, Swype for Android seems like an absolutely rock solid alternative to the standard Android keyboard. For devices without physical keyboards (like the HTC Magic, Droid Eris, Samsung Behold, etc.), this really ought to be something that’s included out-of-the-box.