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sms text messagingOne of the most common complaints about smartphones heard around the office is that they “do not like the touch keyboard!” Surely this is a very important concern for someone who does not like the lack of tactile feedback or is just not very adept at typing on a touchscreen while on the go. This should be a major consideration during the smartphone purchase but there are a number of reasons you might be stuck with a touchscreen keyboard. Maybe the device is mandated by your work or you are stuck with your phone until your contract is up.

Whatever the reason, we feel your pain and are here to offer some alternatives which should help you during your daily text-input needs.

Speech to Text

One of the best ways to replace a touch screen keyboard is to “talk” and have your device automatically convert your speech to text. Android devices, since 2.1, have this feature built in on any text fields, making it very easy for someone to talk in their text and have it transcribed for them. See below for solutions on other platforms.

Dragon Dictation

Dragon is a famous name in text-to-speech circles since the 1990s and is also a leader in both speed and accuracy. You used to have to train your program to learn your voice and its nuances but now it can readily convert just about any voice to text.

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It is available for both iOS devices and Blackberry, but does not have tight integration with the original applications. The program works to transcribe your speech, and then you can send it to the application you want to have the text display in. Dragon Dictation is free. (iOS, Blackberry)

Vlingo

Vlingo is another stand alone application that turns your words into actions. For example, you can say “Email Samantha” or “Text Kate” and Vlingo will prompt a box where you can then say your message and send it, right from the program. It is available for many platforms (iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile) and has a free parts but text transcription for sms and email is paid portion which costs about $6.99.

“Quick Replies”

A “Quick Reply” also known as a “Template” is a prepared message that you can select to send out to your contact. It saves you from having to type in the entire message, instead relying on you selecting the message from a menu. It is a good way to continue using your touchscreen while making it unnecessary to use the keyboard to actually compose an exact message. They can also be considered a timesaver since you can use the template and modify it to your needs.

BiteSMS

BiteSMS is free but available for iOS jailbreak devices only. In addition to a lot of other features, it includes templates that you can send to your contacts – text messages only – by selecting them from a menu. Of course the downside is that it is for Jailbreak only so this limits who will use this application.

Txeet

Txeet is available for iPhone and Android and is a standalone app which includes lots of text templates that you can send to your contacts via SMS or email. SMS integration isn’t that great, but with email you can select your requested template and it will automatically compose the message. An alternative for Android is Handcent.

xTemplate

On the Blackberry side of things, xTemplate is a utility that tightly integrates with the Blackberry messenger system to allow you to send templates into the text input area. It seems to work really well as a “Quick reply” function, but the downside is that it costs $4.99. For a free alternative, check out Autotext which is built directly into BBM. With a little tweaking, you can create a short code which will expand into a longer message which is exactly what we get with an external program.

Keyboard Alternatives

Finally if you are just tired of the keyboard altogether there are some alternatives. Unfortunately for iPhone users, Apple has a tight control over the keyboard and as of yet does not allow programmers to replace the currently keyboard with any sort of customized one. Even if your phone is jailbroken, there are just no alternatives yet.

Swype

Swype is a keyboard alternative where you draw on the the screen instead of “typing” letters. Android users I know who use it swear by it and say it saves them a ton of time typing in messages. I would have to agree with them, this is basically the “evolution” of the keyboard for mobile devices. It is available on certain handsets and may soon be available on Blackberry.

Bluetooth Keyboard

Obviously this is not an alternative if you are on the go, but if you often find the need to type in long messages on your phone, a bluetooth keyboard would be invaluable. Once you pair the keyboard to your phone, you use it just like the keyboard at your computer to type in a message. Some friends I know of actually use this method to replace an entire laptop on trips, since you can still type in long messages – just with a tiny screen.

What Works Best For You?

Each person’s phone usage is different, so the bottom line is to try out different programs to see what works for you. If you have any solution that you feel is worthy, make sure to share in the comments below!

Image credit: Shutterstock

  1. Andkamau
    January 5, 2011 at 5:27 am

    Hey. Nice post but you didn't touch on 8pen for Android...
    Iy's not fast as say, Swype.. But it does the job.
    However, requires a fairly long timeto get accustomed.

  2. Andkamau
    January 5, 2011 at 6:27 am

    Hey. Nice post but you didn't touch on 8pen for Android...
    Iy's not fast as say, Swype.. But it does the job.
    However, requires a fairly long timeto get accustomed.

  3. Ken B
    December 26, 2010 at 12:52 pm

    SlideIT is an alternative to Swype in case your phone does not support the required resolution for Swype. A great alternative, and free on the android market place... :)

    • Dave Drager
      December 30, 2010 at 1:00 pm

      Nice - thanks for the tip!

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