My impressions of Swype

Swype on my HTC Glacier

Swype on my HTC Glacier

One of the first things I did the day I got my Android phone was to put Swype onto it. I was familiar with Swype in concept and have tried the tech, but the devil is in the details, and that's what I was really interested in. Here's what I found.

It's a brilliant idea that feels pleasantly accurate, yet when I return to my iPhone I don't miss Swype. I don't make many mistakes with Swype (and I don't make many on iOS either) and each word I "type" feels like a nice, smooth movement. And yet there's this discomfort between each word where I feel like I'm thinking laterally.

I'm certain part of it is just a lack of familiarity and how different Swype is, but realistically that's also part of the problem. I type one way on my computer – a very, very deeply ingrained way. I type slightly differently on iOS, but it's coming from the same space mentally. But Swype is fundamentally different. Before every word there's this pause and mental preperation to ensure I complete the word in a single motion, and that pathing process feels like an interruption to the thought process of what I'm actually writing. Every word.

And then there's numbers and passwords, which both force you to break your Swype rhythm. With numbers you can switch keyboards and then tap them in normally, or you can press and hold on individual keys to do it, but that feels like an even more brutal contrast to the normal Swype motion. It feels like I drove to a red light, and then had to get out of my car to run across the street to continue. And then there are passwords, which if you're secure will involve mixed cases and numbers, so those must be done manually since you're not going to put that in your Swype dictionary.

Oh, and punctuation is another frequent mode switch.

If I didn't have to switch modes to cover those types of instances, I would probably eventually get more used to it, but those are irritating snags. Having to swap between multiple solutions to finish a single sentence is just awkward when it's normally a completely transparent process.

I know that Swype advertises itself as an exceptionally fast typing method, and I wouldn't dispute that. I actually suspect that I may even be slightly faster using Swype, and I'm a damned fast iOS typist. But for me the discomfort takes me out of the thought process of actually writing, and that minor speed increase isn't enough to justify that. I can see how it's fine for others, but not for me.

Having used Swype for a few weeks I'm going to switch back to the normal Android keyboard and give that a go.