Touchscreen technology has really taken off in the last few years, thanks in no small part to the large influx of high quality smartphones and tablets. The Apple iPhone is the true pioneer of this market, but other companies have contributed equally to the amazing new technology that is literally at people's fingertips now. In the midst of all this, one area that was neglected for a fair amount of time was the virtual keyboard on these touch-sensitive devices.
Even though typing on a virtual keyboard can be equally rapid and accurate as typing on a physical and tactile keyboard, the fact is that it takes people a fair amount of time to get used to this concept. This situation gets worsened when one has to type on the touchscreen when it is in portrait mode, as this results in the single keys becoming even smaller. Since the lightest of touches can activate a key, thanks to the highly conducive Capacitive touchscreen technology, many people often end up making several typing blunders along the way.
'Swype' is the revolutionary new typing technology that was first introduced in a smartphone developed by Samsung, and it changed the way the world typed on a touchscreen. The name itself denotes the manner in which an individual types on the screen; an action which has been termed as 'swyping'. All one has to do is drag one's finger across the letters that need to be typed without lifting the finger from the screen, and the installed dictionary will automatically predict the word you wanted. The accuracy is mind-boggling and it has improved typing speeds by leaps and bounds, and thus replaced T9 Predictive Text as the primary input choice for most users.
T9 Predictive Text
T9 Predictive Text was developed by Tegic Communications, and it rose to prominence sometime in the mid-90's. T9 literally stands for Text on 9 Keys and it was used extensively in all major mobile phones for close to a decade. Nokia mobile phones made T9 text extremely popular all around the world, and a majority of people still use this text input method. In older versions of text input, one single key needed to be pressed multiple times in order to get a certain letter, but the T9 Predictive Text made this practice obsolete.
In this input method, a very vast dictionary is embedded into the device, and one needs to press a single key only once to get a single letter. For instance, in the older version one needed to press the '2' button once to get the letter 'A', twice for the letter 'B' and thrice for the letter 'C'. With T9 text, one only needs to press the '2' button once, and then all subsequent keys once, and the phone will refer to the dictionary and list out the best possible options. This made typing very easy and convenient for so many years. The dictionary can be expanded as well by adding words and names by typing it out in the old manner, so the reference source of the phone is ever-growing.
This is a relatively new technology, and it has been developed by a company known as Swype Inc. The first smartphone to come equipped with it was the Samsung Omnia II that released in June 2009, and today it is widely used in Android, Bada, Symbian and Windows Mobile OS based systems. The keyboard used for Swype is a QWERTY keyboard, either in portrait mode or in landscape mode, and the smart dictionary that is included in this system will simply blow your mind.
As already mentioned, you only need to drag your finger across various letters and punctuations on the keyboard to type in this way. It is imperative though that you do not lift your finger at any point in time while doing this. The end result is that you will be quickly dragging your finger across the screen of your device, and typing words at a pace that you never imagined possible on a touchscreen. The creators say that an adept user can type words at the rate of 55 words per minute, and as an experienced user, I can assure you that this claim is absolutely true.
In addition to this, the Swype dictionary is created for around 50 languages from all around the world, so there are absolutely no limitations here. To make things better, the Swype dictionary also scans messages from your inbox, from your emails, your contacts list and your Internet searches for words that it does not recognize. Once a word has been typed into the database it will always arise as an option, and all this takes up only 1MB space on the device. The punctuation marks are also listed out on separate keys in most QWERTY keyboards, so you simply have to drag your finger over them as well.
The HTC Sensation which released in May 2011 came installed with HTC Sense UI 3.0 and this was the first device to come equipped with this interface. Many tweaks and improvements have been made by HTC here, and one notable feature that has been found on this phone is the T9 Trace. This is a newer version of the Nuance T9 Trace, and it makes use of the advanced T9 dictionary so many people feel that it is better. Additionally, the developers say that you will also be able to type in two different languages simultaneously, but how well this works is anyone's guess. T9 Trace also has support for 70 different languages and also has multi-modal support (which means that it works well on QWERTY keyboards and on-screen 12-key keypads).
At the end of the day, there are not many differences between the two, as they are essentially the same thing. It is surprising that there were no patent issues with T9 Trace because it seems like a direct copy of Swype, but the fact is that it is available in the market. A direct competition between the two text methods will also throw up similar speeds so there is actually very little to choose between them. The advantage of Swype is that it was the first mover in the market, and it is available on the Android platform so there are a greater number of potential users for it.