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There’s something about typing on a touchscreen that really brings out developers’ creativity. After all, they are no longer bound by the rigid constraints of plastic: Buttons become a recommendation, rather than a must. Suddenly you can swipe, slide, and glide, or dictate to your phone. Heck, some keyboards will even correct your grammar 3 Free Android Apps That Can Help Improve Your English 3 Free Android Apps That Can Help Improve Your English Whether it's your first or second language, English can be tricky. Many of us use our smartphones mainly for reading and writing -- not to mention our tablets, of course. So what do you do... Read More . Minuum is a new keyboard for Android that does away with the traditional notion of, well, a keyboard. As the thinking goes, your phone’s screen is first and foremost just that: A display. Minuum does everything it can to occupy the least amount of space possible while still remaining usable, leaving lots and lots of room for your text. Here’s what it looks like, next to SwiftKey:

Minuum-vs-SwiftKey

Minuum is basically half as tall. This isn’t even an accurate comparison, since my phone has some custom DPI settings (courtesy of PAC ROM The Best ROM For Sony Xperia Z? PAC, Reviewed The Best ROM For Sony Xperia Z? PAC, Reviewed I had recently started using the Sony Xperia Z, my first non-Samsung Android device in a while. Unlike the international Galaxy S4 (i9500), the Xperia Z has a wealth of available ROMs. Today I'd like... Read More ), but you can see what I mean: Minuum takes a fraction of the vertical space SwiftKey does (one of the best keyboards for Android MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard? MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard? In this follow-up to our post from 2011 featuring 6+ fantastic Honeycomb keyboards, I’d like to take a good hard look at four of the most popular and well-regarded sliding keyboard. Call it a “keyboard... Read More ). It does this by completely eliminating rows: Calling itself a “one-dimensional keyboard,” Minuum is basically just a horizontal bar you tap on. Obviously, with such tiny slivers for buttons, you’re not going to be able to tap the correct letters — the best you can do is just tap approximately what you’re trying to type. Minuum is built for this, and its algorithm will figure out what you’re trying to type. It’s surprisingly effective.

Layouts and Customizations

Minuum allows for a generous level of customization. First, let’s take a closer look at the keyboard itself:

Minuum-10

This is it — I didn’t remove anything from that screenshot, that’s all you get. Note the conspicuous absence of a spacebar: To tap space, you have to swipe right. Swiping takes time, so if you want, you can sacrifice a bit of vertical space and add on a space bar:

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Minuum-11

This screenshot also shows what happens when you long-press a key: A beautiful pop-up shows up, letting you comfortably swipe left and right to pick letters and special characters. This is important when typing names and other words Minuum isn’t familiar with.

Apart from swiping right to enter a space, there are three more gestures:

Minuum-12

You can swipe top-left to trigger voice typing, top-right to start a new line, and bottom-left to press backspace.

There is also a dedicated numbers mode, which is basically just the numbers row of a keyboard on its own:

minuum

Finally, if you want, you can also make Minuum into a full-sized keyboard, thereby completely missing the point of this app:

minuum[3]

The keyboard looks a bit weird (note the odd padding issues of all of the special symbols — that emoticon looks really squished on the M key). Worse, it doesn’t support sliding/swiping input — you have to tap to type. It’s safe to say that the full layout is definitely not Minuum’s strength, but then again, it was never meant to be.

In Actual Use

Tapping along with Minuum is a fun experience. If you touch-type with QWERTY, it’s basically second nature: You just have to “forget” raising and lowering your fingers, and pretend the entire keyboard is in a single row. I was able to type a few lines pretty easily, with the auto correction never missing a beat:

Minuum-7

Except for that bqcwuaglx there in the end, of course: That happened when I missed the space key. It was supposed to end up like this:

Minuum-8

Since Minuum is so tiny, there is nothing to look at while typing: Your thumbs virtually cover the whole keyboard. This meant I quickly found myself touch-typing, with my eyes on the text I’m composing rather than the keyboard. Speaking of thumbs, while Minuum is interesting to use in portrait mode, it’s virtually impossible to use it single-handed, at least on my 5″ phone. But there’s a mode in which most of us hold the phone two-handed, anyway: Landscape. That’s an orientation in which Minuum really shines:

Minuum-9

When it has the full landscape width to sprawl on, Minuum’s buttons suddenly become much roomier. This keyboard is practically built for thumbs-only typing, and when held in landscape orientation, it truly offers a better experience than traditional sliding keyboards, at least on my Sony Xperia Z.

So, A Gimmick or a Breakthrough?

That depends. Two years ago, I would have been all over Minuum. Since then, devices have grown to the point many of us carry around 5″ slates with 1080p screens. In other words, screen space is becoming less and less of an issue. In parallel, processors are getting beefier and speedier all the time, making swiping keyboards ever more accurate and fast. So, if you use a powerful Android device with a 5″ HD screen, and do most of your typing in portrait mode — Minuum is not really for you. Then again, if you have a smaller screen and really do need the vertical space, or if you enjoy typing in landscape mode, Minuum is a keyboard you should definitely try.

What’s your mobile keyboard of choice? And what do you think — is this a gimmick, or is Minuum on to something?

  1. Joel L
    September 2, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    The concept is pretty cool but, like you said, it seems a little past its time. A few years ago, it would've been a game-changer. Nowadays, either people have big enough screens OR they've grown used to half-screen typing that learning Minuum would be more of a nuisance than an aid. That's how I feel about it anyway.

    Glad to know that something like this exists, though.

  2. Josh
    September 2, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    this looked interesting, until I saw the price. I'm picky about my keyboards. No way in hell I'm paying $4 for a keyboard I may not be able to adjust to. The least they could've done was to offer a two week trial version

  3. Burl
    September 2, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Didn't like Minuum at all, just too different, and difficult. Swiftkey is great, but over time the phone gets slow, and less responsive. Not the case on a tablet. No gimmick, but no good either IMO.

  4. Bestgeek
    September 2, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    There's a big dislike from me for Minuum. It's actually getting tough to type than Android Stock keyboard.

    • Erez Z
      September 5, 2013 at 10:02 am

      Yup - as I said, if you have a big enough screen, it's really not an improvement over the stock.

  5. Makcraft
    September 2, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    This is nor a gimmick, nor a breakthrough.
    This is just a T9 Dictionary for smartphone with a good design. (so they didn't invent any wheels over here)
    Yes it is a perfect keyboard for screen space economy and works quite fast. But i will not use it as many others working with multiple languages (im my case Russian and makes the localisation even more difficult)
    Unfortunately the support team is not that responsive and didn't even answer when other languages will be created.

  6. Harish A
    September 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    well im not a big fan of minuum nor swift key the stock keyboard on my nexus 4 serves me best, but if the question was minuum or swift key i'd go with swift key because i use my computer a lot and i was a black berry user and the key board has just stuck to my mind and its really hard to even see what key i pressed, of course it pops up but then you'll have to hold down to properly see what key you tapped, the first impression was good but later on i regretted it so not a revolutionary idea nor a gimmick

    • Jpang
      September 2, 2013 at 7:30 pm

      I was in the Minuum beta (For KickStarting) a few months ago, so I've been using the keyboard for some time. I'd say it definitely has a learning curve, but it only takes a few days of use to get used to. Typing speed for me has effeminately improved, but it may be different for everyone.

  7. Tanguy D
    September 2, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    I bought Minuum while it was still kick starting, or which ever it was, since then the price has gone down, which I think is a bit of a pity... they should reward the early supporters.

    Anyway, I'm French, so the keyboard isn't super useful since it doesn't support French yet, all I can do is chat with my English speaking friends with it, and since not everybody has or wants a 5" screen (Nexus 4 here) I say that it's quite useful while we use whatsapp or chatting system to see the whole conversation (at least not just the 1 previous message) but 2 or 3 which makes it easier to re-read the previous message to write a witty answer.

    Pros:
    - super slim
    - very intuitive
    - innovative
    - good understanding (random pressing will get your word correctly)

    Cons:
    - not cheap
    - no swiping
    - only English
    - punctuation hard to reach
    - you need to swipe right to end your word

    Overwhole I think that the price might be a bit steep since it's only just still a beta and despite some good ideas it still has ways to go before replacing swiftkey from my phone

    • Erez Z
      September 5, 2013 at 10:01 am

      That's a great analysis of the pros and cons! I agree.

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