App: ShapeWriter by ShapeWriter Inc.
Features: Drag-to-type, several languages
Tested: 02/20/10, Nexus One | Version: Free, 3.0.1
Shapewriter is a free keyboard very, very similar to Swype. And since Swype isn’t available in the Market, it’s not a contender for this installment of DroidWars. However, the company finally made a public beta available today, and you can sign up here. It may seem strange to spend my first paragraph on ShapeWriter talking about Swype, but I assure you, credit is due.
The whole concept of Swype and ShapeWriter is that people can drag their fingers from key to key faster than they can tap a key, lift their finger, and tap another. Overall, that seems to be the case for many bloggers who have tested the much hyped Swype. I think both of these keyboard replacements implement the new typing method brilliantly, though you’ll find Swype (pictured to the left) is much more polished and, I think, accurate. Still, ShapeWriter is a decent and free alternative that is available in the Market right now. Strengths? Quick learners will find themselves blazing through text as they never have before. Slow learners, like me, will be relived to know they can simply tap each key individually, as they always have. Weaknesses? ShapeWriter (reportedly a result of 10 years of R&D) currently plays second fiddle to Swype and is unlikely to ever match it in quality. Swype has some pretty hefty backing at this point. However, if Swype is destined only to ship with certain phones and never to be sold in the Market, piracy (along with the popularity of free alternatives) is inevitable. There’s just too much buzz about the product.