Sunday, May 15, 2011

AAQR: Nuance Flex T9 Input (paid, keyboard)

Image representing Android as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBaseNuance Flex T9 is basically a revamped version of ShapeWriter, a soft keyboard for Android that competes directly with Swype and SlideIT! The catch is, of course, what used to be a "free beta" is now $4.99. I was a ShapeWriter user for a long time, so when Amazon Appstore offered this free for a day, I know I had to grab it. However, I am somewhat disappointed.

FlexT9 claims to have 4 modes of input

tap keyboard / XT9 -- your normal Android / smartphone soft keyboard with individual keys

trace keyboard / T9 Trace  -- same keyboard as tap keyboard, but also allow Swype-style input, tracing a word from key to key on the soft keyboard

write keyboard / T9 Write -- similar to Graffiti, lets you write letters on top of each other, and use multiple strokes.

speak keyboard / Dragon Dictate-- use Dragon dictate's voice recognition to decipher your voice input.

Write Keyboard / T9 Write feels out of place, as it had a VERY hard time deciding whether my input is upper or lower case. It interpreted almost everything I wrote as upper case, which makes for a VERY odd looking message. There is no automatic capitalization (or in this case, UN-capitalization). It also did not recognize any of the Graffiti (tm) input strokes (which I am familiar with).

The tap keyboard is nothing special. In fact, the white on gray (iPhone) look turns me off. I want the Android or "Black" look, but the keyboard does not appear to be skinnable.

The trace keyboard is as I remembered... just like ShapeWriter. However, there seems to be no more of those "command shortcuts" where you trace from the command button to a letter to execute a special action. At least they kept the "auto-double" where you don't need to "circle" the letter to double like. For example. to enter "cool", you trace c-o-l. In Swype, you have to trace letter C, then circle the letter O, then letter L. However, the dictionary / word suggestion seem to have gotten MUCH MUCH worse. It doesn't seem to be learning from my inputs at all, and gave often very esoteric suggestions.

Voice input is hit and miss. I am guessing this app sends data to the Dragon Dictate online server similar to the way Google voice input sends data to Google and get stuff back. There are a few glitches, but doesn't seem to be a major problem. Accuracy, on the other hand, seem to be below Google's voice commands.

Now the big question... is this app worth $4.99?  I say... no. It's more like $2.99. Why? The word prediction is quite bad. (I tried to enter "hell" which is NOT in the word prediction list at all, only he'll )  There seem to be no way to customize the dictionary (like the old ShapeWriter). The Write Keyboard seem to be relatively useless unless you're trying to do completely blind input, but you have the voice keyboard for that. And finally, no keyboard skin. Argh... and no demo.

Sorry, but this app needs a bit more polish.

Rating: Try it (you can ask for refund within 15 minutes)

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  1. You add a word to the dictionary by long-pressing it in the selection list.

  2. I believe the Write keyboard is based on normal handwriting recognition and not Graffiti.