I spotted the 8pen Android app a couple days ago, and thought it was an interesting twist on the standard mobile keyboard. The video (linked above) highlights some interesting history and raises the abundantly obvious question of, “why do we use a standard keyboard on a device that is only a few inches wide?”. I have seen a few reviews, and thought I would offer my two cents.
Initially, I was a little frustrated that the application is not free, but each time I scoff at paying for an application, I try to think of it in terms of “coffee-trips”. “How many cups of coffee is this application worth to me?”. It’s priced at or below the cost of a single cup of coffee (in most restaurants and coffee shops). So, I decided to go for it.
3qubits did a lot of things correctly with this release. The first screen you see includes instructions for both setting 8pen as your text entry application, and also how to remove it. They then proceed through a tutorial, starting with a single letter, and moving to phrases. Post installation and tutorial, my impression is that while it will take some time to familiarize myself with character locations, I like the idea of “typing” with this utility much better than using a 5cm wide keyboard.
I did see a couple of notes online that the Evo (US Sprint) is having issues launching the application. I can’t comment on their validity, but I can say that the application works fine on a Samsung Captivate (US AT&T). I can also say that if you run into issues, the developers noted to email them directly for updates and bug fixes.
I also saw a couple complaints about some 8pen assumptions. For example, I saw one rant that immediately denounced the 8pen interface, because it assumes a space comes after a word and doesn’t offer a means to enter a space. A couple notes from my perspective: for one, I thought the 8pen auto-spacing was nice, as it is generally accurate. Two, 8pen’s tutorial highlights that a space is entered after a word is written. You start a word by pressing the center black circle, you finish a word by returning to the center black circle and lifting your finger. That’s right, just press the center black circle, and a space appears.
After the tutorial and a dozen or so short messages, I already know the patterns for several pronouns, verbs, and conjunctions. I also am starting to build a mental map of the characters, which allows nearly vision-less “typing” using 8pen.
8pen also supports custom gestures that act as shortcuts for customizable text strings. So, if you find yourself needing to enter a particularly long and bothersome word often, just use a custom gesture for that word. This is an excellent feature that could have easily been overlooked or stricken from the application.
When I think back to how much time I spent on the standard keyboard before it became a transparent extension for writing, and consider how long it takes one to learn something like cursive handwriting, I feel like the 8pen is extremely easy and intuitive. I’ll follow up as I spend more time with it, but my initial reaction to 8pen is that Android owners are crazy not to try it. I’ll get back to 8pening (can I claim that verb as it equates to typing in the 8pen interface?), so that I can relay more information soon.
// TODO habari theme(s), GWT/GAE // – imperialWicket