This is not really on-topic on the Colemak forum, but I figure people here may have interesting thoughts/opinions on this.
I recently jumped on the bandwagon and purchased an Android smartphone. After some initial dabbling with Qwerty, Colemak, T9 and Swype keyboards, I decided none of these are very efficient on a touch screen, particularly on a small 4" one. So I'm looking for alternatives.
There are plenty of "improved" keyboard apps available, for free or $$$, but most are just modifications/hacks/tweaks/improvements of the above, not fundamentally better (despite big claims and marketing statements). Two radically different alternatives caught my attention though, as they are specifically designed for touch screens: 8pen and MessagEase. I'm currently playing around with MessagEase, as it's a free download whereas 8pen is not.
In a nutshell: it's a matrix with 9 big keys, and a big space bar underneath. Tapping the 9 keys gives you the most frequent letters: ANIHORTES, the others are formed by "sliding" between keys (left/right, up/down, diagonally, and even back & forth). Visually:
My impressions so far:
+ designed from scratch specifically for touch screens, not improving on fundamentally inefficient methods
+ letter placement makes sense at first sight, most frequent letters require the least effort
+ large keys, especially the most frequent letters cannot be mistyped
+ there's a learning game with several levels and a speed test available
+ includes and even encourages a "blind" (unlabeled) keyboard mode, no hunt 'n peck!
+ many special characters available directly on corner keys (actually usable on a unix console!)
+ somewhat configurable, can implement "macros", but not change the layout
+ has a left-handed mode (putting the control keys on the left side)
+ several non-latin layouts (Russian etc) available as well
– need to learn to type from scratch once again (but I actually wanted something completely different, right?)
– susceptible to typos by not clearing the finger enough between characters? (whereas eg. 8pen uses uninterrupted swipe patterns)
– patented, so no alternative implementations possible
– free download today but will it remain free?
claims to be based on scientific research, but no white paper, no statistical evidence, not even arguments for the actual letter placement, are provided edit: there is a white paper
– little or no independent research
– will it even still exist two years from now? edit: already exists since 2003, so seems good
Thoughts? Experiences? Other alternatives?