Friday, 26 June 2009

Is LG really innovating when it agrees to use T9 and xT9 for text entry on its future mobile phones?

Well, that's the view of Michael Thompson, senior vice president and general manager, Nuance Mobile. Don't get me wrong: the guys who have been with T9 pre Nuance have done an amazing job. Looking at Vision Mobile's latest release of the 100million club, who wouldn't want to say they were part of that. And hey, the Nuance acquisition of Tegic (and of course Zi earlier this year) firmly positions Nuance as the 800 pound gorilla in the text input market. But, does it mean innovation for OEMs and end users??

I'm not convinced. Nuance have been on an acquisition spree over a number of years, grabbing talent, contracts, channels and customers for their assortment of products and services which make up their mobile division. Seeing that lot integrated is one heck of a job. Seeing them deliver truly innovative solutions over the coming number of years is another. Does Nuance have a culture of innovation? Well, I don't know is the honest answer.

But what I can say is that from the perspective of an OEM, it can't be good news. SMS is still the killer app (see my previous post). If OEMs are using the same old input method across all devices, where is the differentiation? Cootek, Adaptxt, Tengo and other ISVs are in the text input game and have many fans.

LG is playing it safe.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Adaptxt for Nokia S60 Smartphone (Beta v2.4)

Following the release of Adaptxt version 2.3 in February 2009, I awaited in anticipation for the latest release of Adaptxt and its intelligent predictive text software. I loved version 2.3 but the application did have one or two irritating bugs, that I hoped the future update would erase. To my delight version 2.4 arrived much earlier than first anticipated (April) and didn’t disappoint.

The experience
The download process was very self explanatory with an assortment of pop-up messages to smoothly guide you through the installation process. It took around 3 min’s to download completely. This version seemed to be around 2MB in size, so I installed two additional languages (Spanish & French) and the application ran as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

I noticed that the personal dictionary default size had been increased from 500 words to the new default setting of 2500 and that instantly the suggestions where more accurate. Also, they seem to have increased the size of their already substantial selection of languages. So if you’re multilingual you’ll be sure to find an array of language options to choose from.

New features (v2.4)
This new version introduced PIM & SOCIAL into the functionality of the software, allowing you to extract your social networking profile and other personal content from your phone into your personal dictionary.

Allows you to choose what Adaptxt should scan, so you have the choice of scanning emails, SMS, domains, contacts and calendar. So basically Adaptxt learns all your files you write and read.

This application allows you to connect to Facebook (the only social networking service at present) where Adaptxt will pull your profile information to learn new contexts for your personal dictionary.

On a whole this release was worth the wait. Adaptxt version 2.4 definitely is more intelligent in that it’s more accurate in suggesting word and phrase suggestions in advance, than its predecessor. It’s certainly still my preferred text input software by far.

Qwerty keyboards rule for SMS. Watch out touchscreens!

I know everyone loves the iphone but as Tomi T Ahonen reminds us in his epic essay (but is well worth the read), iphone is 1% of the global mobile market and its not SMS friendly. Is he right? Well, yes.

I was at the Nokia conference last December in Barcelona when a VP with Finnish name (not surprisingly) announced the N97. During the course of a good launch presentation, he wowed the audience with touchscreen controls, widgets and all Nokia's wonderful new mobile services. BUT what he kept right to the end was the qwerty keyboard. I remember his saying (and I paraphrase here) "you cannot beat a qwerty keyboard for messaging" and tadaaaaaaaaa the giant N97 on the giant screen behind him started to split before our eyes and yes, a simple qwerty keyboard emerged! (some from Slashphone has kindly uploaded images from that presentation)

Tomi Ahonen's article is a historical perspective on the importance of messaging, the role it places on keyboard design and the resulting success of a device i.e. people like phones which are messaging friendly. He points out Nokia are the kings of SMS and Samsung have worked hard to follow suit. Check the link to the leaked Samsung roadmap showing the T559: yes it looks guff and yes its not for me (device target demographic is probably teen or student girls) but its a messaging know for these young "social communicators"!

Thank the lord. Touchscreen's look good but for SMS messaging (the killer app on a mobile) touchscreen's suck. Oh, and using a stylus ain't cool either!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Android Soft Keyboard & Predictive Text

I waited a long time for the Cupcake update. As well as improving performance, UI tweeks and adding video playback, it introduced a soft keyboard (SKB). No longer would I have to flick open my G1 to email, text or twitter! Word completion and predictive text would make my life easier again!

Did it?

A few weeks on and, to be honest, I’m only just starting to use the SKB more. Like the iPhone, the G1 SKB in portrait takes a bit to get used to and can be tight. The accuracy of keyboard is very good, however it’s the accuracy of my thumbs that’s in doubt. This makes typing slow. The proximity error correction is ok and does help but it doesn’t help enough to stop me from bashing away on the hard keyboard instead.

Auto screen rotation is the Android SKBs saving grace. The keyboard instantly becomes thumb friendly. It takes up just over half the screen but doesn’t look cramped. Even when the predictive text kicks in, there’s still enough room up top to see what you’ve written for a few lines. Additionally, you can switch on haptic feedback. It’s a love it or hate it feature but personally I love it. It’s nice to “feel” a soft key being pressed.

The best thing I like about using the SKB is the predictive text input - my spelling safety net. It’s not the best I’ve seen but for a person who has used predictive text most of their mobile life, it was good to get it back after typing blind for a few months. Suggestions don’t appear till you’ve typed a couple of letters, then a bar pops up on top of the keyboard. Suggestions are generally ok. I guess they’re using the same statistical model that T9 operates with. For longer words it’s easier to type the full word than mess about scrolling right trying to find the word you started typing with it ending in “ed” or “ing”, for example. At best, I think the predictive text is only saving me from typing a few keystrokes here and there.

The SKB hasn’t quite made my life easier. I still flick open the keyboard, particularly if I’m typing a long email or text. Don’t get me wrong, the SKB is great and works well but I think that in wanting a SKB for so long has made me realise, once I had one, that I wouldn’t trade in good old hard keys for anything else.