Could Handwriting Recognition Be Andoid’s Secret Weapon?

android-keyboardThe Android Developers Blog offers a highly detailed overview of soft keyboard input methods today. It’s mainly geared towards software developers, of course, but end users get a nice understanding of the various IME or Input Method Editors in the Android mobile OS. Although the focus of the article is on different keyboard designs and the impact of using them, I thought this was very interesting:

“The Android IMF is designed to support a variety of IMEs, including soft keyboard, hand-writing recognizers, and hard keyboard translators. Our focus, however, will be on soft keyboards, since this is the kind of input method that is currently part of the platform.”

Handwriting recognizers, eh? Now that’s traditionally been the realm of resistive touchscreen devices, not capacitive ones like the current Android devices have. Capacitive really shines with precise touch input, but hasn’t gained momentum with handwriting recognition. That method is preferred in Asia and other markets where a keyboard is simply too limiting. In fact, the lack of handwritten character input is partly why Apple’s iPhone isn’t selling well in those markets. There are other valid reasons as well, but Nokia has run into the same problem and essentially pulled out of the Japanese market.

While the current public Android focus is on the new software keyboard update, I have to wonder how a native handwriting feature would affect Android sales. It’s something that the rising two players, Apple and Research in Motion, simply don’t offer and it just might be a big enough differentiator to gain Google more worldwide momentum with Android sales. Of course, capacitive screens don’t work with a stylus geared for pressure-sensitive screens, so something like the Pogo Stylus would be required: It can be used on capacitive screens to simulate the touch of a finger.

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