Android This Week: Google Wallet; Smarter Keyboard; Flyer Lands

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Six months after debuting a handset with mobile payment capabilities, Google this week launched it’s Google Wallet service with Sprint as its carrier parter. The operator’s Nexus S handset, with integrated near-field communications (NFC) chip can be used for wireless purchases at MasterCard PayPass terminals, initially in New York City and San Francisco. Consumers with the Nexus S and a Google Wallet account can pay for goods or services simply by entering a PIN on their phone and tapping or waving it near the wireless terminal at check-out.

Consumers outside of the two trial areas will have to wait for Google Wallet, which will also support merchant reward cards and digital coupons, but Android device owners don’t have to wait for a smarter third-party keyboard. SwiftKey has long been a popular input option due to its ability to predict the next word when typing. The software does this by learning from past input as well as scans of a user’s SMS conversations. SwiftKey X, a new public beta, leverages the cloud to become even smarter.

To improve word prediction, SwiftKey X can scan and learn from conversations in Gmail, Facebook and Twitter, in addition to SMS on the handset. Users can choose which, if any, web services SwiftKey X can access, and the company’s privacy policy ensures the personal information will not be transmitted from the handset. Within just a few minutes of setup, the software is already predicting the correct word in my usage more often than not.

The folks at SwiftKey have a tablet version of the keyboard in the works, but its not yet available. While waiting for it, I’m getting acquainted with the HTC Flyer; the newest 7-inch slate from the company that makes a wide range of Android handsets. My first impressions are generally favorable: The slate fits in a back pocket, has unique touch buttons that rotate between portrait and landscape mode and runs on a fast 1.5 GHz processor.

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A full review of the Flyer is forthcoming, where I’ll take a closer look at the tablet in every day use. I’m most curious to see how HTC’s newest version of Sense software adds value, and also interested in the digital pen support for the device.

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