Google beefs up Android onscreen typing, acquires BlindType

Google acquired BindType, a company that's making great strides in solving one of the toughest problems in mobile devices: typing on those tiny little screens. The acquisition will help Android phones compete against Apple's iPhones and iPad.

"We know that typing on your mobile device can be a frustrating experience, which is why we've worked hard to make touch typing easier and faster than ever - the way it should be," BlindType said on its blog announcing the acquisition Friday.

Google confirmed the acquisition in an email message Monday: "Yes, I can confirm we acquired BlindType," a spokesman said. "BlindType will join the Android team, but we don’t have any specific plans to announce at this time."

BlindType onscreen keyboard

BlindType brings touch-typing to mobile devices. It makes an onscreen keyboard designed to allow users to type without looking at the screen. Using BlindType, you make typing gestures anywhere on the screen, and BlindType moves the keyboard to where your fingers are, rather than providing a fixed-position keyboard that you have to hit, as is currently done with touchscreen iPhones and Android phones.

BlindType could enable Android phones to leapfrog iPhones in an area where the Android is currently weaker: Onscreen typing. Even my friends who are Android enthusiasts say that the iPhone has much better keyboard input. The iPhone does a better job of anticipating what you meant to type.

But even if the iPhone is better than Android at typing, that doesn't mean the iPhone keyboard is actually good. Text input on any mobile device is painful. There's just nothing to beat a full-size mechanical keyboard for input. But according to early, hands-on reviews, BlindType has the potential to make Android much, much better than the iPhone in this important technology.

BlindType "features some of the most impressive typing correction software I’ve ever seen," writes Aaron Saenz in a BlindType review on the web site Singularity Hub in July. "The result is a practical touchscreen interface that knows what you meant to type, even if you make mistakes. Lots of them. In fact, you can type without looking at the screen at all! It’s amazing."

BlindType can handle it if your hands move over the keyboard as you type, if your movements get larger or smaller, and it can work without a visible onscreen keyboard at all, Saenz says.

Mitch Wagner

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is a freelance technology journalist and social media strategist.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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