One strength of Android is the ability to swap out the default keyboard for any number of alternatives. But here’s the thing, your choice isn’t limited to just a few big name options. These days, there are innovative solutions for people who don’t want to use something that even resembles a keyboard to input text on their mobile devices. It makes sense – our smartphones aren’t keyboards, so why should they pretend to be? But if your tastes are more traditional, don’t worry, there are plenty of “traditional” typing options to go around as well. But I’ll save those for last. Let’s get started.
Traditional keyboards can take up the majority of your phone’s screen real estate, hiding most of the conversation you’re taking part in, the website you’re entering data into, or the document you’re trying to edit. Minuum addresses this by shrinking the entire keyboard into a single row. Just tap in the general area of your desired letter, and the keyboard will take care of the rest.
2. ABC4 Keyboard
ABC4 Keyboard, previously known as Si Revolution, also tries to reduce how much of the screen must be obscured just to input text. It works by placing four small buttons at the bottom half of the screen, each containing a handful of letters. Press the corresponding button to type a letter within it and hit the empty space between them to type a letter that isn’t displayed. The keyboard will try to predict words from there. Unfortunately, since it sits on top of the bottom half of what you’re viewing, it can block certain buttons and other page elements.
3. MessagEase Keyboard
MessagEase again takes a different approach to typing on an Android device without sacrificing all of your screen real estate. This time letters are arranged on a 3 by 3 grid that can be dragged to whichever position is deemed the most comfortable. This keyboard not only takes up less space, it also claims to speed up your typing.
4. “Traditional” Keyboards
Google’s keyboard, Swype (pictured above), SwiftKey, and SlideIT are four “traditional” Android keyboards that all replicate the look of a physical keyboard, yet they are not as simple as their default layouts may suggest. Swype may have pioneered the ability to type using gestures, but now all four of these options ship with such functionality enabled out of the box, and they each come with their own set of options that let you tweak them until they suit your preferences – such as dividing the keys so that you can type using only your thumbs while using a tablet, or positioning the entire keyboard to just one side. Some of these keyboards have more features than others, but all of them offer more functionality than what is initially on display, and they’re all pretty quirky in their own ways.
Virtual keyboards may not feel as natural as physical ones, but that might change with time. They’re adaptive things after all. Physical keyboards haven’t changed all that much over the course of the past several decades, but those meant for touchscreens have evolved in just a fraction of the time. The way we input text could be radically different in the years ahead. It only takes one glance at the options above to see that.
Image credit: Toshiba M30 keyboard cleaning -IMGP7931
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