SwiftKey has demonstrated to us the latest enhancement to it's popular Android keyboard: trace input. The new feature should arrive in the next version of the app, SwiftKey 4.
Users of Android phones will be familiar with continuous trace input on keyboards, thanks to companies like Swype. The idea is that rather than tapping each letter, you keep your finger moving across the letters to draw out the word you want, rather like a dot-to-dot puzzle.
It's not a new technology, but SwiftKey doesn't just offer this method of input in isolation. The company marries this trace input with its innovative predictive suggestions, so you really do get the best of both worlds.
The software is currently in beta, but we had the chance to have a play with it in SwiftKey's London offices. The recognition was very good and you don't get the feeling that you are missing out: the standard key press text entry is still there and the two work seamlessly together.
A nice detail is that if the trace you make isn't recognised, the predictive word line wobbles, as if it's shaking it's head at you. We found, however, that it worked from the off, so it's looking good as an added extra to an already great third-party Android keyboard.
Of course, in enabling trace, you'd lose any existing gestures you might use, but SwiftKey says trace entry can be disabled if you don't want it.
SwiftKey 4 is launching to beta shortly and we can expect to see the final app released in early 2013. SwiftKey says it will "almost certainly" be the same price as the current keyboard and that current app owners will "almost certainly" be upgraded to the new version free of charge.
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