Sunday, November 24, 2013

Everything Write (and Wrong) with Swype

An iPhone 4 has been my primary phone for four years. For a few short months I had a wonderful Dell Steak and grew to love Android. Vale my cherished Dell Steak: 'twas not the smashed screen that did you in, but the hot sweet coffee I bathed you in (and the front passenger seat of my car) while driving to a repair shop. I can honestly say that Swype is one of the main reasons I wanted to come back to Android. And now I have.

Killer features

  • Sliding Swyping your finger across the keyboard to type out words is just so damn good!
  • There are Swype shortcuts to select all, copy and paste - the latter two being the king of all features below slide typing.
  • Tap the Swype key to select the word your cursor is on.
  • Tap the shift key while you have a word selected to change the case of the word (but if you were just typing then tapped the Swype key then tapped shift key this doesn't work: you have to re-tap the word, tap Swype, then tap shift).
  • Swype gesture to hide the keyboard.
  • Swype gesture to activate cursor mode with functions for going back/forwards/up/down/select all/copy/paste.
  • Autocorrect is right most half of the time.

Rage inducing flaws

  • Speech to text (powered by Dragon Dictation) is terrible, unusable. It is supposed to learn but I haven't seen it learn anything and support through the forums is non existent: one, two, three posts on this revealing nothing helpful at all.
  • I have yet to see a single reply from devs that solves or even usefully addresses any of flaws I am laying out here. So many unanswered posts.
  • Swype to write is slow. In this mode, you can write out a single word, one individual letter at a time. Even though it (mostly) interprets the space gesture correctly, writing multiple words separated by space just outputs one hopelessly wrong word. It doesn't recognise handwriting. (Forum post on how bad Swype Writing is.)
  • No undo. The A.I. Type keyboard has undo, as do some apps like DroidEdit.
  • No access to recent clipboard entries. The Samsung Galaxy stock keyboard has this, so it is possible.
  • Enter key is not always visible (such as in Google Hangouts). Needs to have an option to override this. (Workaround is to switch to write mode, then switch to numbers mode and it usually recognises the gesture for new line insert, but it's clunky).
  • I still find myself typing out many hilarious or confusing autocorrect failures if I don't double check every word.
  • You can only Swype one word at a time - the Galaxy stock keyboard lets you swipe multiple words if you swipe to the space bar in between.


Swype is a lot faster than thumb/two finger typing - I never want to go back to just being able to tap letters (like you have to with iOS). Swype is such an efficient mechanism, allowing you to use one finger to fluidly output words. If you know how to touch type, you will be even faster still since you will know the layout of your keyboard. You still need to be very careful and double check your output.

I find Swyping to be just a little bit faster than using handwriting recognition keyboards (like the stock Samsung keyboard). Having said that, handwriting on the Samsung Stock keyboard is amazing - it will cope with your worst doctor writing!

However, Swyping is is still much slower than typing if you know how to touch type. This means that when I am in a meeting and need to take notes, I will still pull out my iPad and use a bluetooth keyboard (and use the outstanding iThoughts mind mapping app), rather than use my new and shiny Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Note that Swype is not the only keyboard to offer typing by sliding your finger over a virtual keyboard. The Samsung stock keyboard, the Google stock keyboard and Swiftkey are three alternatives I am aware of. However, the core mechanic is slightly different in each, and the combination of the other killer features had meant that Swype is still my go-to Android keyboard.

This review is for Swype version on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (not rooted) running Android 4.3.

4 out of 5. Swype is a must for your Android.

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