Nuance copy and pastes Swype’s new touch screen input method, they’re calling it “T9 Trace”

Swype showed the world a new way to input text on touch screen devices. Rather than pushing buttons on a soft keyboard, one simply had to touch the screen once, on the first letter of a word, and then drag their finger across the screen to the other letters in said word. Once you lift your finger off the screen, the right word is supposed to be entered into the text field.

I’ve been playing with the beta on my Google Nexus One, and I find it a bit odd. In some instances, such as spelling longer words, it’s faster, but when it comes to proper punctuation, it’s a mess. That and entering a URL with a Swype keyboard is a royal pain in the ass. Don’t let my harsh criticism stop you from trying out the software yourself, it did set a new Guiness World Record for fastest text input on a mobile phone.

Today, Nuance announced “T9 Trace”, and it’s basically the exact same thing. How can they do this without violating patents is beyond me, but the description I gave above for Swype is exactly how T9 Trace works.

Look at this screenshot of Swype:

And now look at this screenshot of T9 Trace:

It’s prettier, I’ll give it that much, but read the press release yourself and see if you can spot anything that T9 Trace does that Swype doesn’t, because I sure as hell am having a hard time doing it.

One thing to note, Cliff Kushler is the founder and CTO of Swype, he is th co-inventor of the first T9 text input software you probably used on a Nokia phone many years, practically a decade, ago. The guy has patents coming out of his eye balls. Nuance … not so much.

  • Jay3gsm

    I find Swype enables one handed text entry on a touch screen device, which until now I was never able to do, and for that alone it is worth using. For entering URL’s and other strange words it can be just as easy to tap those out individually, but writing email and text is very fast. There are some tips and tricks videos on the Swype channel on YouTube which help with difficult operations like punctuation and other things. Once you learn the technique it is very easy.

  • Nico

    Swype isn’t the only one holding patents for this type of text input.

    I first discovered ShapeWriter, which I am currently using to type this on my Android. There is also SlideIT. You can look up these other input methods on Wikipedia and read how the patents a described. Each is written differently. Patents, what crazy things. They are worded on such a way that can have stuff like these keyboards. All similar, but all carrying patents that describe the same thing!

  • jim

    you forgot SlideIT! they was there before of them, and they have also a strong patent.
    another thing this layout is very similar to three SlideIT layout?!

  • Singer

    Nuance purchased Shapewriter which came out of IBM's Research Labs. IBM holds the oldest patents to this technology and actually their technology "taught" Swype. Now Nuance has those rights. Any little bit of online research puts both Swype and SlideIT in jeopardy. Nuance's purchase of Shapewriter (the inventor) gives it the leg up over the other two imitators.

  • Jmh010

    Singer is correct. Also, T9 Trace does double letters and punctuation without weird, unintuitive, precise motions and is therefore overall way way more usable.

Back to top ▴