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Swype hopes to license keyboard tech to Apple

updated 10:55 pm EDT, Wed June 23, 2010

Software already under development

Startup Swype has announced that it is currently developing a version of its input software for the iPhone. The company hopes to license its keyboard technology to Apple, although the proposition has yet to be formally introduced to the iPhone maker.

The patented system allows users to input text by dragging their fingers across letters, rather than individually tapping each key. The method was pioneered by company founder Cliff Kushler, the inventor of T9 predictive texting.

"We would like to be on iPhone," chief executive Mike McSherry told Reuters. "It remains to be seen."

Swype has already landed licensing deals with several smartphone makers including Motorola, Samsung and HTC. The keyboard software will be available on a variety of Android devices such as Motorola's upcoming Droid X. The company also offers a public beta currently available to download.

Apple's willingness to license third-party technology for its iPhone keyboard remains unclear. The company has shown a strong tendency to develop its own technology in-house.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Joined: Dec 1969


    if its good stuff,t hen someone buy it

    if they like it enough to "license" it, they should try to buy the company, are you kidding me....what are they it up and don't license it to anyone.

    I mean, from a competitive perspective, anyway...not necessarily great for the consumer if its good tech we'd all like to have it.

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Swipe to Type

    I wish Apple would have the good sense to give us a choice of input schemes. Swype's idea is a good one, particularly for commuting where coordinating on a bouncing train or bus isn't easy. Unfortunately, it still requires looking down at tiny screen keyboard.

    There's an approach that doesn't require looking at all and that should be quite fast. It uses swiping instead of tapping but doesn't have a keyboard. All the meaning lies in the swipes themselves. And since the only requirements for text input are basic hand coordination and a sense of touch, it makes the iPhone much more usable for the visually impaired and those with limited hand-eye coordination.

    What is it?

    * It uses a well-established open source standard—International Morse Code. But instead of short and long key presses, dots are input by short swipes and dashes by long swipes.

    * Speed of input doesn't matter. Unlike regular Morse, which assumes a pause in sending to be a break between letters, user input can be as slow or fast as the users wants without error. Letters are distinguished by alternating swiping right and left. A user-set delay inputs the last character, i.e. one not followed by a swipe in a different direction. Users can also set the ratio between long and short swipes.

    * Swipe mode changes when the user rotates the screen.

    * Because International Morse Code is already optimized for fast input in many languages, text can be entered very fast. The more often a letter is used, the shorter its Morse Code equivalent is. An e is a single short swipe and a T is a single long swipe. It couldn't be easier.

    Additional Features

    Morse input would also take advantage of a touch screen’s flexibility to add features that International Morse Code doesn’t have. Examples include:

    * Lowercase letters are made by swiping left-to-right then right-to-left.

    * Uppercase letters are made by swiping down-to-up and then up-to-down.

    * Other gestures can be used. Common punctuation uses diagonal swipes, i.e. upper-left to lower-right for a space, lower-left to upper-right for a period or a period plus space. Diagonal swipes with two or three fingers could have other meanings.

    * Circling CCW might delete the previous character for each circle. Circling CW might enter a Return. Alternately, a short shake of the iPhone deletes the previous letter, while a longer shake deletes the previous word.

    * Because text input is always a swipe that doesn't need for anything to be displayed for it to work, the entire screen is free for other uses, either display or touching without swiping. It can be used to display the text being entered, to have buttons for commands, or to show a chart for those just learning Morse. This makes maximum use of scarce screen space.

    * Certain easy-to-make touches could be used to make common commands easy to do. Touching the keyboard with another finger, perhaps the thumb in the lower-left corner for right-handed people, might signify something. For instance, it might bring up a scrolling list of long, user-set text strings (i.e. a phone number or address) from which the user could select. Inside applications, it could be used for something important. Inside an email program, for instance, it could send the just-entered email. Inside a writing program, it could be used to start a new paragraph.

    * In learner mode, the screen would display the Morse alphabet and text input would be on a scrolling line. Letters or words could be spoken as typed to speed up learning and accuracy.

    For those willing to learn Morse, which is far easier than most people think (especially for sending), it offers a fast, virtually error-free text interface for the iPhone, one that has tactile feedback built into the design. Most important of all, it’s a text input technique that doesn’t require users to constantly look at the screen. Since the target is the entire screen, it’s impossible to miss and the touch of the screen provides the tactile feedback lacking in the on-screen keyboard.

  1. legacyb4

    Joined: Dec 1969


    I miss the old Palm text input

    which was developed for use *before* on-screen keyboards or mini-keys were all the craze...

  1. JeffHarris

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Palm's Grafitti

    Palm's Grafitti input method could easily be used with a finger (or stylus). I used Palm OS devices for years and found it very intuitive. I tried the T9 input method on the Palm and never particularly liked it.

  1. trenchcoat77

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I can't decide if that entire "use Morse code" post is satire or the dumbest idea ever. Finally, ham radio operators get some respect!

  1. byRyan

    Joined: Dec 1969



    No - that morris code thing would really help if like something fell on your arm and you were suck somewhere - and you had to send out an SOS.

    I think you'd have better luck developing your own morris code app then convincing Steve Jobs to integrate 170 year old technology.

    Actually - a morris code app wouldn't be too bad ;)

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