Symbian gets Swype… Finally.

Swype for Symbian

I first wrote about Swype on these pages back in February; now, more than six months later, it’s finally available for a select number of Nokia touch screen handsets — like my Nokia N97.

One of Swype’s founders is also partly responsible for the T9 predictive text-entry system for number pad handsets. And like T9, Swype will shortly become the de facto standard for touch screen text entry. Just you wait.

Swype’s killer feature is that it’s so intuitive to use — just drag a stylus, finger or thumb across the letters of the word you want to spell. The blue line seen above will trace your path and show you where you are. When you lift up you’ve got a completed word, or at the very least a pop-up window listing the most likely candidates. And unless your next key press is a punctuation mark Swype will auto-magically add a space for you. A nice touch, if you’ll pardon the pun.

You can even type — er Swype — with two thumbs, BlackBerry style. Just lift up on one digit as the other presses down and the connection between letters, even across the span of the entire keypad, will be made. Again, it’s a lot easier to figure out than it sounds.

In my limited testing so far I’ve found that two-handed operation is the most accurate — either using two thumbs in full-screen landscape mode or with one finger/stylus doing the typing Swyping and the other holding your handset steady. Swyping with one hand is possible, but I find that my thumb tends to block too much of the portrait keypad for me to know exactly where I am on it.

You can download Swype with an account at Nokia’s Beta Labs. After installing you’ll have to reboot your phone; once that’s done you’ll find Swype as an option for text entry system-wide.

I firmly believe that Swype will be a killer app for mono-block touch screen phones, making text entry on them potentially as speedy as on any physical qwerty keypad. It would be fantastic if Swype was pre-intalled on Nokia’s forthcoming N8, but somehow I don’t think that Nokia is forward-thinking enough to make that happen.

Prove me wrong, Nokia…

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