With 50M installs, Swype matures for phones, tablets

swype-3-beta-tablet

Swype, a popular third-party keyboard for Android devices, has improved to version 3.0 with word prediction and a resizing function specific to Honeycomb tablets. The new software is available for all in a public beta by way of a registration page on Swype’s website; your Android smartphone or tablet will need to be enabled to install apps from outside of the Android Market. Swype, which is pre-loaded on some Android smartphones and uses a word trace function for fast input, now claims to have 50 million installations of its software over the past 18 months.

The word prediction functionality is useful for those who switch between “swyping” and tapping, which is the type of user I am. Sometimes I’ll trace my words out, which is a differentiating feature of Swype. But I also tend to tap out words like many others, which is why I gravitate towards the SwiftKey keyboard: I find that it can predict words with as few as one or two taps¬†thanks to some cloud intelligence. The new Swype 3.0 may offer the best of both worlds, although I haven’t used it long enough to test the effectiveness of the word prediction. Here’s a video demonstration direct from Swype to illustrate the new features:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dj-vyx9hAM]

The new keyboard supports smartphones of various resolutions, including the 960 x 540, or qHD, resolution, which is now becoming popular on the latest handsets such as the HTC Sensation 4G, Motorola Atrix 4G and the upcoming HTC Evo 3D. Swype 3.0 also works on 1280 x 800 resolution tablets, where the keyboard can be resized to a smaller, thumb-friendly size, or repositioned at the bottom of the screen. I’m not sold that Swype is as effective on tablets as it is on phones, however.

The core competency of the Swype keyboard is the unique word tracing functionality, which is better suited for a smaller device such as a smartphone. With one hand, you can hold the handset and quickly trace words as an input method. The same use case doesn’t quite apply to larger screened devices. I have the new Swype 3.0 beta installed on the 10.1-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, for example, and unless you have hands the size of a giant, it takes two hands to use the tablet. I suspect that’s part of the decision Swype has taken by adding tap word prediction to the new version — a small but smart change for a popular keyboard.

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