[This is part of the Android Diary.] I sure hope they’re tasty, because I’m gonna have to eat some. Not too long ago, in Phone Keys, I wrote about how great it was to have a hardware keypad. Well, the Android I’m currently using doesn’t have one, and it’s not that bad.
Background and Disclosure · What happened was, I was visiting Silly Valley and a couple of the Android guys invited me to drop by for a talk, and then they gave me a present: A new HTC Magic, AKA T-Mobile MyTouch, which is quite a bit like the G1 I’ve lived with since last Christmas. It’s smaller and lighter but has no keyboard, and I’m using it all the time.
So, conflict of interest? I suppose. I mean, I’ve been doing mostly-favorable Android reportage for pretty well all of 2009, and I’ve put a lot of my own personal time into figuring it out and writing about it. If things don’t pan out with me and Oracle (or who knows, maybe even if they do) I’d like to work in the Android space. If I were Google I’d sure be giving people like me phones.
But anyhow, There Has Been A Freebie, so please calibrate your suspicion monitors accordingly.
The Phone · As a phone, well, it’s really an awful lot like the G1. It seems a little snappier and the GPS improved, but it’s sure not night-and-day better.
I just found the smaller smoother lighter form factor enough of a win that I didn’t miss that hardware keyboard I was going on about so recently.
Soft Keyboards · I’d already been feeling a little nervous about my public keyboard fetish, especially when it dawned on me, via Gruber and others, that that soft keyboards are, well, soft, and can reconfigure themselves in application-sensitive ways.
So, Android’s own built-in soft keyboard is kinda awkward for my big farmers’ fingers, but the word prediction, while not as best as the slickest T9 I’ve seen, is pretty good, and a time-saver.
In recent days I’ve been using TouchPal (here’s a video) and I think it’s going to be a winner, but, like most power tools (for example the QWERTY keyboard itself) it takes some learning. The predictive leap-ahead is spooky and initially distracting; you have to learn how look mostly away from the keys themselves and towards where it’s reading out its guesses for you to choose from. At the moment I figure that once I get used to it, I’ll go very fast indeed.
And of course the built-in Android keyboard will get smarter and better too. And I suspect that all those companies who are shipping keyboardless handsets probably know what they’re doing.