Talking tech since 2003

This morning, while still in bed, I was reading a friend’s Facebook post and had the most hilarious idea for a comment. I “typed” it out on my phone using the Swype keyboard function and clicked post, proud of myself for my morning-time hilarity—only to discover later on that I’d mistakenly entered a typo. Such is the danger when using Swype (and still rubbing the gunk from your eyes). That’s why the paid beta test for Minuum, a minimalist QWERTY keyboard for Android phones, caught my attention.

A few months ago, Whirlscape, the developers behind Minuum, managed to raise $87,000 on Indiegogo, far surpassing its initial goal of $10,000. Since then, backers have been using the app in beta, and very recently, Whirlscape opened the beta up to non-backers with a $4 entry fee. After reading about it in a TechCrunch post this afternoon, I decided to give it a shot. I directed my phone over to the Google Play store and ponied up $3.99 for the app, which is still in beta. I’ve been using it in texts, chat, and emails for the last few hours and so far, I have to say…I do not like it. But I want to.

The premise behind Minuum is simple: the standard QWERTY keyboard is condensed to a single row of keys. From there, you just peck away with your thumbs, relying on a your by-now well-honed ability to touch-type. Minuum will then predict the word you meant to write despite the fact that you have probably typed out “Dxcjjjfdig” when you actually wanted to write “Definitely.”

Take a look at this video that explains how it works:

The reasoning behind shrinking the keyboard down is to save space and leave whatever’s on the rest of your screen actually on the screen. This is a worthy endeavor, as there have definitely been times where I’ve wanted to refer to something in an email I’m replying to, but it’s not on my screen—the keyboard is just too darned big.

On the positive side, I can report that, so far, Minuum works mostly as advertised. The accuracy rate with which it predicted my words was impressive, especially considering how completely jumbled my typing often was.

On the negative side, the failure rate was still considerable, forcing me to slow down and choose the right word on-screen, scroll through more choices to find the right word, or just start over entirely. Moreover, the way the app handles punctuation—either through holding and releasing the punctuation you want, or inserting a period and then choosing a different mark—is cumbersome and annoying.

In short, Minuum is a cool idea that definitely solves a problem, but seems to introduce other problems by way of its solution. Typing on a phone is supposed to be fast, moving as fast as I can make the words form in my brain and down into my thumbs. Having to slow down and find the right words is aggravating, especially considering how accustomed I’ve gotten to moving quickly. And if you can’t touch-type already, forget it. Minuum is definitely not for you.

Of course, getting used to a new input method has to take time, and that’s why I’m going to stick with Minuum for a while longer. I have a hard time believing that this is all on the app, and I still like the idea behind it enough to keep going until I either get used to it, or decide I’m done with it. And after all: I paid four bucks. I want to get my money’s worth.

Or, if I’m writing it in Minuum, “I wanr tm vxt mb miheys zicvb.”

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