ZAGG Pocket Wireless Keyboard Hardware Review

ZAGG Pocket Wireless Keyboard Hardware Review

Apr 21, 2015

I have a thing for Bluetooth keyboards. I admit it; I love the ability to have a tool to pound out an article on the go. Getting a look at the ZAGG Pocket Wireless Keyboard was definitely down my alley.

Out of the box, the unit presents a serious front; it looks stately, and has some heft to it, which helps with balance. It mimics a full keyboard closely, if on a smaller scale, with a row of number keys with standard shift options; it also manages to work in arrow buttons. The keyboard is mostly black with grey and blue lettering. Above the keyboard is an extra grey plate.

The review package also contained a USB charging cable and documentation.

It would be a shame to avoid mentioning the defining concept here; it incorporates an interesting quad-fold setup, such that when not in use, it can be stored or toted as a small accessory, occupying a relatively svelte 9 X 2.5 X 0.5 area, reminiscent of a tennis bracelet case. When opened up completely, it creates a keyboard with a built-in device stand.

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Pairing it to Android devices involves putting it into the appropriate mode, and then using the platform-specific button keys to complete the task. In action, it works especially well; quick responsiveness, dual independent space bars and crisp keys. After some test taps, I was able to do quite equitably with it. Folding the keyboard up turns it off, and

The mechanical construction allows only one seam to go along the the keyboard, and it folds up and not down, which makes sense from a functionality standpoint.

The portability does collect a usability tax, even if it is a relatively small one. I definitely wouldn’t describe the rows as cramped, but if one is used to full-sized keyboard, it might take some getting used to. The keys are bit smaller, and consequently a bit less forgiving of errant strokes. At $69.99 on Amazon, it is a bit of an investment.

Still, it is something I’d definitely rather have than not. It’s a slick accessory that begs to be on the go, and works to make it happen.

Google Handwriting Input Review

Google Handwriting Input Review

Apr 20, 2015

I’ve said it before, and said it often: cottoning to a virtual keyboard was the only way I was able to leave the relative security of physical QWERTY devices and try out Android.

It has been smooth sailing ever since. Mostly. Still, I have a soft spot for keyboards, even if I feel fairly vested in my current option. And even as the third-party options delightfully expand, I love how they push Google’s own options.

And then we get Google Handwriting Input.

The concept is basic: one uses a finger to write, and the app converts it to digital text. When activated, it acts like most other keyboards, and pops up from the bottom. Instead of keys, the entry tool is made up mostly of a writing area, and other buttons that control sundry items, as well as a space bar at the bottom. After activating, “writing” is a cinch; tracing with one’s finger allows the app to interpret the entry and to place it in the appropriate entry box. Right above the trace area, word suggestions are provided, and can be selected if the initial guess is wrong. The program recognizes simple punctuation too.

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Non-cursive writing works best based on my testing. The blockier the entry, the more accurate the program seems to be. It does multiple languages too, which is an added bonus, and there is a conventional keyboard that can be invoked from within the app.

My biggest fuss has to do with spacing. It’s a cramped going in portrait, and only slightly better in landscape… even in phablet-sized devices. Obviously, there is gonna be a trade-off been accuracy and sizing of the input area, but I did come away with the feeling that it works best on tablets.

Weirdly enough, even though the capture process does its thing, I’m faster using a swipe keyboard. This is due to the slight delay that occurs while the app recognizes an entered word; these add up.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t find this option intriguing. Despite the growing pains, it feels like a relatively well-thought out concept, and it works well in real life.

Swype Update Brings Premium MLS Themes and More

Swype Update Brings Premium MLS Themes and More

Aug 21, 2014

Swype Keyboard, the award-winning third-party keyboard from Nuance Communications, has just received an update, and it most probably will be a welcome one for fans of Major League Soccer.

Most notably, there are a host of new premium keyboard themes based on MLS teams, so users can now deck their keyboards in the distinct colors and crest of their favorite soccer team.

The MLS-branded themes can be unlocked for $1.99 each. The standard, stock themes remain.

Version 1.6.19 also brings:

Significant UI updates and improvements for all themes
Many bug fixes and optimizations
Updated default Korean dictionary
Fixed missing Pinyin delimiter on Pinyin keyboard
Fixed crashes reported by users

We had an opportunity to review Swype when it was first released, and liked it a lot; it is available for $0.99 on the Play Store (with a full-fledged 30-day trial available as well).

Fleksy Keyboard Free Update Supports Custom Layouts and More Languages

Fleksy Keyboard Free Update Supports Custom Layouts and More Languages

Apr 21, 2014

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Now the neat keyboard app, Fleksy, is supporting 16 languages, and if that’s not enough – you can customize it as well. The customizable layouts include AZERTY, QWERTZ, Dvorak and Colemak. The app is available for free from here: Fleksy Keyboard on Google Play.

TouchPal X Review

TouchPal X Review

Jan 13, 2014

Every mobile platform has (or should have) an anchor feature or two… or a dozen. I mean feature that makes it harder for people to switch over to other platforms. Android OS has a few for me, and one major one is the stock ability to install third-party keyboards. No matter what type of entry style, be it peck, swiping or finger writing, there is a keyboard available.

Swiping is my thing. Discovering it made the switch from physical keyboard device to one with a virtual keyboard possible. As it is, I’m always on the lookout for newer takes on swipe entry, and TouchPal X is an opportunity to do just that.

It’s advertised as a swipe keyboard, so, as expected, it is designed to input words that are constructed by continuous tp1dragging the finger across letters. As words are formed, the application’s predictive engine kicks in, and alternative suggestions are displayed at the top the keyboard to help correct words that might formed by errant swipe. In practice, this keyboard works well, with a high level of accuracy and prediction. It’s audio input option, activated by holding down the spacebar, is a pleasant surprise.

It comes with a dark look by default, with light lettering on grey keys and light graphics that highlight wave line. The emoji support is extensive, and the it also keeps speed stats.

Getting the keyboard set up is fairly easy. After installation, setup involves enabling the keyboard and picking it the default. It sports some nice customization options, and it is ready to get lost in these: keypress sounds, length if optional vibration, font of the keyboard, swipe animation and more can be tweaked to make it more aligned with its user. There are other themes as well, but it seems they have to be downloaded. At the risk of sounding like a spoiled fashionista, I do wish said themes become even more easily accessible down the line. Cloud functionality with regards to dictionaries and settings would also be a plus.

It’s a great keyboard to use, with enough options that should keep most Android users happy. Alternatives are always great, and it feels like TouchPal X is well on the way to earning a spot with the greats.

Favi SmartStick Hardware Review

Favi SmartStick Hardware Review

May 28, 2013

The Favi SmartStick is a very good idea in theory: slap Android with a good 10-foot interface on a dongle with an HDMI output, microSD card slot, USB port for accessories, and an IR blaster with remote for navigation, and turn any TV into a smart TV with the power and flexibility of Android. All this for only $49 for the 4 GB model!

The problem with the reality is that the Favi SmartStick is just too underpowered to do anything at high quality.

While the OS is only Ice Cream Sandwich, it’s not a huge deal, as most if not all video apps are going to support ICS. Oh, and getting apps is very easy because the SmartStick comes with Google Play. Thus, the selection is exactly what Google Play offers, so the selection is great. Oh, and a rooted firmware is also available for those who want to tinker.

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However, the default interface is good enough as it is, working well as a “10-foot interface” for use on a TV or other large display. As well, the tablet Android interface doesn’t look bad on a TV either, there’s little to no text that seems too small, so as a whole it’s just a good TV experience. This could just be one of those Chinese-made Android dongles found on the likes of eBay and DealExtreme, but the interface was made with care for English speakers. Plex comes preinstalled as well. There’s an included remote that can simulate a mouse cursor, though there’s also an optional handheld keyboard-plus-trackpad available that connects via an RF USB adapter. Most USB keyboards and mice should work, along with some USB ethernet adapters. There’s no Bluetooth, sadly.

So, we have a solid set of software, but what about the hardware? Well, here’s the problem: the processor included with this thing just isn’t up to the mustard for video-watching. All the video I watched with the Favi SmartStick was blurry. This seems to be an issue with the video decoding on the processor with apps and not a network issue, because watching identical services on the same network with other devices showed better quality. Watching an animated program like Bob’s Burgers on Netflix made the blurring especially clear. Whatever’s decoding video on this device, it doesn’t do a good job at it. Video stored on USB devices and SD cards seems to work a lot better, and it handled pretty much any file format I threw at it. Also, the media buttons on the keyboard work with local videos, but not generally with apps.

Games don’t work all that well, either: Sonic the Hedgehog runs at a very slow framerate, though Angry Birds works alright. So, this thing is a casual gaming machine at best.

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And really, casual usage is all that this thing is really good for. The video quality is poor but passable, and the unlimited number of services does give it a distinct advantage over boxes where the user is at the whim of the manufacturer to offer the channel. Just for playing local files off of a USB drive, with the built-in remote? Sure, there are worse ways to spend $49. And maybe casual use of other video apps might be worth it. But really, knowing that better is possible from Android makes the Favi SmartStick a real disappointment. Perhaps a future iteration with a better processor will be a more solid recommendation.

The Favi SmartStick is available from Favi for $49 for the 4 GB model, and $79 for the 8 GB. There’s a microSD storage slot, so the 4 GB is likely the smarter option considering how cheap microSD storage is now. The RF keyboard/trackpad is available separately for $39.

Swype Keyboard Review

Swype Keyboard Review

May 8, 2013

I’m a brave man. I believe a couple centuries ago, I would have been an explorer of sorts. I love a challenge, and few things scare me. Except spiders.

In any case, the prospect of switching from a device with a physical keyboard to one with a virtual one made me nervous. I was okay with switching from from one OS to another; I had done my research, liked the new ecosystem and liked the hardware available to me. The thing that really bothered me was the eventuality of having to peck on a touchscreen.

I’m here to tell folks: Swype made the switch possible.

Swype is an alternative keyboard from Nuance that changes the thumb/peck paradigm. Instead of (or, more accurately, in addition to) tapping with fingers, Swype allows for the user to input words by gliding a finger across letters without lifting a finger. The built-in predictive algorithm takes care of the rest.swype1

In practice, it is quite nifty. It does a pretty good job of guessing words accurately, and the suggestion tab right above the keyboard came in hand. For words it could not decipher, it allowed to to force them in by tapping; after this, I could add it to my dictionary. The keyboard sported an optional virtual trace line to aid the swiping motion. The keyboard itself was compact, and worked well in both portrait and landscape orientations. The English version was set up in the standard QWERTY layout, with the option to switch to a numbered keypad or two pages of special characters

I really liked the personalization options. It was possible to pick from several color themes, spacing and capitalization tweaks, and more. The user dictionary was editable and cloud-compatible. The built-in gestures that enabled stuff like hiding the keyboard or invoking the number pad was fantastic, as was the Dragon Dictation voice entry.

With regards to mobile data entry, swiping is not so new anymore; during Swype’s legendarily long beta process, several keyboards have incorporated the feature. Thus, I do believe Swype’s prediction engine could be sharper. Also, being able to adjust the size of the keyboard couldn’t hurt.

Still, Swype remains a very compelling productivity tool that can boast at least one world record.

IKnowU Review

IKnowU Review

Jan 8, 2013

The keyboard on Android device is one of the most used apps. Pretty much everything revolves around some sort of keyboard related input. Because of this, having a really nice keyboard is super important. IKnowU is an Android keyboard meant to help increase typing speed and efficiency.

As anyone who has used a mobile phone with autocorrect can attest to, the the accuracy of the autocorrect isn’t always the best. IKnowU does a really good job at predicting the intended words vs. feeling like it’s just making something up. IKnowU has a couple of ways to help with getting the desire word or phrases faster.

There is the normal prediction bar showing the potential words based on letters already typed in. Most phones and replacement keyboards have something like this. To type quickly, enter a few letters and look at the prediction bar to see if the word is there. If the wprd is in the prediction bar, tap on the word and move on. What is a little different with IKnowU is, if the word in the prediction bar has “…” after it, pressing and holding on that word will bring up a new set of predictions with words that might commonly be next in the sentence.

The grouping feature is pretty cool too. Typing in a few letters then holding the spacebar pulls up word options. By simply sliding a finger from word to word, a partial sentence can be created.

Syncing the personal dictionary across multiple devices is possible using their cloud sync service. This requires an account, but it still super nice feature not many keyboards offer.

In the settings, there is are a few options for different keyboards for tablets. When the tablet is in landscape mode, there is a split keyboard with the numerical characters to the left side of the screen and the letters on the right, there’s also what’s called a thumb keyboard. The thumb keyboard is nice because it splits the alphabetical characters down the middle and places the numerical characters in the center.

IKnowU is one of the most feature-packed keyboards on the market and well worth a try.

CES 2013: Fleksy’s Intelligent Sight-Free Typing Engine is Coming to Android

CES 2013: Fleksy’s Intelligent Sight-Free Typing Engine is Coming to Android

Jan 7, 2013

Fleksy, a sight-free keyboard that was introduced in an app on iOS, is about to come to Android, and they are demoing their software at this week’s CES 2013 trade show in Las Vegas. While there are plenty of keyboards on Android that claim to improve the typing experience, Fleksy wants to make typos a thing of the past. And the crazy thing is that even in its currently available form, it works.

Fleksy works by essentially figuring out what word is being typed based on the user’s relative thumb positioning versus where it actually is, using that to detect relatively well what word was actually being typed, with predictions available for words that may be close to what was typed. Users can pick from multiple versions of the word to try and detect what it actually is. The iOS version of the app targets visually-impaired users, with text-to-speech functionality for saying what word was typed, and swipe gestures for selecting predictions and moving forward or backward. However, there’s benefits for even sighted users. It works without looking at the screen at all, and makes on-screen typing far more accurate.

The Android version will come with the advantage of working as a system-level function with hypothetically any keyboard and in any app with typing. This will be a boon to both the visually-impaired, who will get to use this technology outside of its sandbox like on iOS, and even to sighted users who can type more accurately with it. The Android version will bring along with it support for multiple languages, an improved prediction engine, and other tweaks to improve the experience. Android users interested in trying out Fleksy can sign up for the beta at their website. Fleksy is demoing at CES in booth 74038, and is a CES Innovations 2013 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree.

SwiftKey Flow Releases Public Beta

SwiftKey Flow Releases Public Beta

Dec 6, 2012

SwiftKey has unveiled the latest version of their popular prediction-based keyboard, available as a free public beta version. SwiftKey Flow brings many of the features of SwiftKey 3 into version 4 ,but now tracing words is available. Just start the tracing gesture by holding down on a letter and moving away from it; this causes the standard prediction options to disappear and be replaced by a display showing what word is being swiped. This is maybe the most useful feature of SwiftKey Flow; it means that tracing is more than just a crapshoot, and hitting backspace will pop up the usual prediction options. Handy.

For those who dislike tracing keyboards, don’t worry; initiating tracing is rather deliberate, so even in a public beta, this is probably the best keyboard at integrating standard and tracing typing. I found myself mixing in both while typing this out. The public beta is available direct from SwiftKey, in both phone and tablet variations.

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Free App Recap October 9th: Android Keyboards

Free App Recap October 9th: Android Keyboards

Oct 9, 2012

Android devices have the ability to change the keyboard with simple download. This is unique to Android devices. BlackBerry and iPhone users are pretty much stuck with what comes on the device. With a simple search at the Google Play Store for the word “Keyboard”, more than 1000 free options are available. Below are a few good samples from the bunch.


GO Keyboard


GO Keyboard Is the most versatile of the group. There more than 60 different themes available to change the look and/or layout of the keyboard. Different layouts are also available for GO Keyboard . Use gestures to switch between layouts and also slide the keyboard down to minimize the keyboard. Not only can the look of the keyboard be customized, the input language can also be easily modified.

Download GO Keyboard


iPhone Keyboard Emulator FREE


The iPhone keyboard is pretty easy to type on. So instead of purchasing an iPhone, simply download this free keyboard for Android devices. The look is almost identical to the iPhone keyboard. The numbers and letters are spread apart so even if larger fingers try typing on it, there’s enough space in between so multiple keys are not hit. One note about this iPhone keyboard. Some ads may be placed in the notification bar from time to time.

Download iPhone Keyboard Emulator FREE


Big Buttons Keyboard Standard


One dilemma people with larger fingers face is dealing with a small buttons on a touchscreen phone. Many people think just because a a phone has a larger screen the on-screen buttons will be larger. This is not the case though. So to remedy this problem, a quick download of Big Button Keyboard will change the keyboard to something with a much larger set of buttons. The layout is a little bit different and may take a little bit of getting used to but it does solve a problem.

Download Big Buttons Keyboard Standard

Keymonk Keyboard Review

Keymonk Keyboard Review

Oct 5, 2012

A good keyboard is hard to find. Generally, I find myself just using the stock keyboard on Android devices as it generally does the job, better than many third-party options. In particular, sliding keyboards like Swype. Those are particular nuisances because swiping introduces new issues with accurate word detection, and typing letter out manually is often annoying in and of itself.

There are two reasons why Keymonk Keyboard, a swiping keyboard with a twist, is my keyboard of choice. One, it features intelligent two-handed swiping. Each thumb can be used to swipe letters on the keyboard instead of justa one finger. We use two thumbs to type, why not swipe? It can detect where certain letters go if one finger is left on that letter and others are swiped by the other finger. It is possible to start swiping with one finger, put the other one down, lift the first one up, and swipe unimpeded, as thumbs can collide. It’s also possible to start keying up a word, and then mixing in swipes, though once no finger is touching the keyboard, the word is inputted.

It is just a better way to swipe words. There’s a learning curve to get comfortable with the new swiping mechanic, but after a short while I felt somewhat adept with it. As well, the second big thing I love about it is that actually manually typing words out is very well-supported with this keyboard, so it does not feel like I’m losing any effectiveness. The swiping on the punctuation key for commas, exclamation points, and more, is extremely handy. Plus, for those who don’t like two-handed swiping, it’s still a great traditional swiping keyboard. There’s several useful configuration tweaks, the developer is actively supporting the keyboard, and is responsive to emails sent to him.

Now, complex words are harder to swipe out as there’s a lot that can go wrong. As well, it can be difficult to do the finger gymnastics to properly swipe out a word with two fingers when some letters are near the other thumb. I would like to see the auto-correct be a little more liberal as far as letters that may have been barely swiped goes. And some words where a letter or two may be off fare better than others do. But overall, I feel like Keymonk does a great job at making me feel more accurate with my ‘typing’ on my phone, and even on my Nexus 7.

And really, that’s what I love about Keymonk; after using it for a while, I feel like I am a better typer. I am really satisfied this new keyboard, especially third-party keyboards. However, this is the very rare exception to the rule. The free version some of the configuration tweaks of the full version, but it is a great way to try the keyboard out. Definitely give it a try, it is a very original and effective new way to type on Android devices.