Nuance's FlexT9: Most Complete Android Keyboard Replacement

Best known for speech solutions, Nuance has introduced "FlexT9." It's an Android replacement keyboard that offers four diverse methods to input text: speech, "trace," write and "tap" text prediction. The app costs $4.99 but is well worth the money. I've been using it for the past two weeks and find that it's highly accurate and provides more flexibility -- hence the name -- than other, competing keyboards. 

The "trace" functionality, enabling users to glide over letters, is most closely associated with Swype. I had not downloaded Swype but it mysteriously showed up on my device one day probably through an over-the-air software update. However the Nuance "trace" capability is at least as easy and accurate as Swype in my comparison of the two. Swype is currently free, though my understanding is that there will be a charge at some point.

I found FlexT9's "tap" predictive text capability to be good but not as impressive as another Android keyboard, SwiftKey ($3.99). I had been using SwiftKey as my primary keyboard and really like it. As users type SwiftKey offers up the anticipated next word in the sequence, minimizing the number of keystrokes required. Both Swype and SwiftKey enable speech input using the built-in Android capability. However FlexT9's speech recognition was more accurate than Google's built-in capability in my "field testing."

A novel feature of T9 is the capacity to draw letters or symbols directly on the touchscreen. I didn't have too much occasion to use this feature in my daily interactions with the keyboard but the capability is unique to T9. Indeed, FlexT9 is the most "complete" of all the available keyboards for Android and gives users the most input choices and options. 

As I tried to move between Swype, SwiftKey and FlexT9 in my testing I found it challenging to change keyboards. This goes to Android's usability rather than any of the individual keyboards however; most users won't have multiple keypads on their handsets and so won't face this problem.

The built-in Android keyboard is considerably weaker than these replacements and one of the major weaknesses of the user experience (vs. the iPhone for example). Going back to the native keyboard after using T9 (or SwiftKey, Swype) feels like a step backward. But replacing the keyboard dramatically improves the Android handset experience. 

The aesthetics of each of the three keyboards discussed above is slightly different and users may have a preference for one vs. another. However with Swype one doesn't get the impressive text prediction offered by SwiftKey. And those users who prefer Swype's trace functionality won't find that on SwiftKey. Nuance's T9 has both and offers the widest array of capabilities. For those interested in a flexible keyboard that provides a truly "multi-model" input capability this is the choice.