I have voiced my opinion on software keyboards several times now. In short, typing on a touchscreen is frustrating, nerve-wracking and annoying. Even after a two-year run with almost nothing but all-touchscreen phones, I still find myself having trouble adapting and spending more time correcting my mistakes than anything else.
Recently, as touchscreens have become the standard form of input via mobile, companies have sought to end the woes of software keyboards. Some have tried to mimic the tactile feedback a physical QWERTY gives when a key is depressed through haptic feedback and an actual tactile display. Others have turned to software solutions that learn how you type through Facebook, Twitter and Gmail , or a series of calibration exercises to match the anatomy of your hand, and attempt to predict your next works – SwiftKey, which uses the learn-and-predict method, has worked best for me. And software keyboard makers like Swype allow you to quickly slide your finger between letters, reducing "taps" and improving speed and accuracy.
The stock Android keyboard in both Gingerbread and Honeycomb is ... okay. It gets the job done, and autocorrect works remarkably well – that is, when you spell the word you are trying to type relatively close to what it should be. But you will not catch me using the stock Gingerbread keyboard any more than I have to. I generally use Smart Keyboard Pro or SwiftKey X. As for tablets, I revert back to the stock Honeycomb keyboard when Thumb Keyboard (a third-party split keyboard found in Android Market) begins to drive me nuts.
Of all of the software solutions I've seen – and trust me, I watch for breakthroughs in this field like a hawk – there is one that stands out amongst the crowd: BlindType. The whole idea behind this keyboard is that is adjusts to the way you type on the fly. Little is actually known about the software, other than it appears to be powered by magic. It easily outdoes every other software keyboard on the market. Four videos were posted on the blindtype YouTube channel (no, seriously, go watch the videos), showing a demo of it working on Android and an iPad. The videos reveal that BlindType is scalable and rotatable on the fly, and you can even type while the keyboard is hidden.
The last word we've officially heard from BlindType, however, was in October of 2010 when Google did what Google does best and bought them. The BlindType team was excited about the acquisition (why wouldn't they be?) and we were led to believe that the acquisition was to improve the stock Android keyboard experience. Unfortunately, not a peep has come from Mountain View about the acquisition since, and it doesn't appear as if the magic keyboard has found its way into any builds of Android just yet either.
So what exactly is Google doing with BlindType? Beats me. If I were to guess, though, I would say there's a fair chance Google may have purchased BlindType simply to keep their main competitor, Apple, from doing just the same. Seeing as it has been 13 months since Google acquired the software and we haven't heard a single word about it, wanting users are getting impatient. And many are beginning to doubt we will ever officially see BlindType.
It's possible that bits and pieces have been incorporated in Ice Cream Sandwich, as they did claim the keyboard has been improved. But it appears the main changes there were a redesign and in-line spell check. However, I highly doubt they would sneak BlindType into the latest software update without dropping at least a word or two about it. I think its safe to say we won't see BlindType before Jelly Bean, if at all.
The most logical explanation I can come up with, though, is that Google is trying to get the software patented before releasing it to the public. Back in October, the videos and even BlindType's website (which no longer exists) were plastered with "patent pending." If Google wants a leg-up on the competition, at least in the text input field, having BlindType patented is a must.
It would be a shame if Google bought them out and just decided to kill them off or shelve them. BlindType was one of the few software firms that showed any kind of promise for those of us having a hard time coping with a cold slab of glass replacing a nice, roomy and reassuring physical keyboard. Here's to hoping there's a good explanation behind the latency and that we will see BlindType, sooner rather than later, in an Andriod update.
Were any of you looking forward to using BlindType? Do you think Google will ever incorporate it into the stock Android experience? Or do you think Google bought BlindType just to keep if off of iOS?