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Welcome to our newest Monday feature — Android Ecosystem! After a week of Google Nexus One ownership, I shared 16 things I like about the device, not to mention half as many that I don’t like. During this second week, I’ve been slowly getting used to […]

Welcome to our newest Monday feature — Android Ecosystem! After a week of Google Nexus One ownership, I shared 16 things I like about the device, not to mention half as many that I don’t like. During this second week, I’ve been slowly getting used to the platform and the device. I find that I’m getting faster on the software keyboard — mainly because the native dictionary / predictive text functionality is excellent. My typing in general is improving over time. But Android devices lack the intelligent approach taken by Apple  — on the iPhone, the area around the possible next keystrokes is enlarged. You don’t notice or visually see this, but it’s helping out behind the scenes.

ThickButtons promises to do the same, although it does include visual clues. As you begin typing a word, ThickButtons begins to predict the next possible or likely letters and makes those keys larger. It looks like a nice combination of predictive text and visual help. Unfortunately, the Android version is still in development, so I’ll have to wait until it’s released before testing it. I’m also intrigued by Swype, which is just starting to land on other devices. For now, this video shows the promise of ThickButtons:

Input aside, something else I learned about Android this week has to do with auto-rotation of the display. I often get frustrated with this function on the iPhone, particularly first thing in the morning when I’m still in bed. One of my initial activities is to scan email and the web for anything important before I start my day. Often, the display is rotating back and forth between portrait and landscape because I’m half propped-up and lying on my side.

With the Nexus One, I realized this wasn’t happening. But it’s not because the auto-rotation is better — it’s simply different and can be controlled. In fact — and this may be a negative to some of you — the display only rotates if you turn the device 90-degrees to the left, as in counter-clockwise. Rotating the handset clock-wise doesn’t change the display. Surprisingly, this limitation works perfect for me since I usually sleep on my right side — the display stays in the proper orientation for my specific situation. Even if it didn’t however, I’d be OK. Under the Sound & Display Settings, I found an option to enable or disable screen rotation with the accelerometer. In this case, having more control over the device is a good thing.

  1. I just looked at their twitter and there appears to be some dispute between thickbuttons and qwerted. They both serve the same function but qwerted claims that they began blogging about their keyboard months before thickbuttons. http://www.qwerted.com/ BTB, Glad you are enjoying your android phone…It took you long enough to come to the light. lol

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  2. I am/was also frustrated by the eagerness to switch display orientation while using the device laying down.

    I think there is an unhealthy tendency to make touchscreen devices too responsive and playful, which is seen in this usage example and in others, like kinetic scrolling and bouncing. Hopefully designers are just infatuated with kinetics right now and will get over it.

    Were it up to me I’d add the ability to supress switching orientation by holding a thumb down on the screen.

    I’m quite happy that my 9700 does none of this fancy stuff.

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  3. i find it annoying as well, it seems like its much more eager to switch than it is too switch back. Pre needs some kinda patch that will allow you too disable it.

    personally i prefer the old WinMo days when you could dedicate a button to switch the orientation.

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  4. I’m glad to see that other people share my dislike of automatic orientation switching. My argument to everyone showing how cool their iphone was in automatic switching of orientation is that until the thing can read my mind on what I want to do, it shouldn’t do it automatically.

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  5. Kevin, thanks for mentioning!
    In fact ThickButtons enlarges useful buttons by shrinking useless ones. The beauty of this idea is that it’s much easier to predict which letters are unlikely to be used than to guess the full word, as other prediction technologies do.
    We are doing our best to release version in March. You can follow us on twitter at http://twitter.com/thickbuttons to get the latest updated on our product development.

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  6. I had a similar rotation problem when I tested a Kindle DX – quite a bit of my PDF reading is from my library’s document delivery service, which usually scans two facing pages in landscape on a single 8.5×11 sheet. Try reading that on an autorotation device without giving yourself a neck cramp. The Kindle doesn’t even have an obvious setting to turn autorotation off!

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  7. @wayne it’s not a dispute, it’s just healthy competition spiced with the believe on my side that patents are neither useful nor legitimate in software. that’s what it’s all about, and I’m sure customers will decide which implementation they like best :-)

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