I think most people would agree that when it comes down to text input on a mobile device, virtual keyboards are generally still not a match for QWERTY hardware keyboards. Many strides have and continue to be made to improve software keyboards with the increasing numbers of touch screen devices on the market, and one of the more interesting designs to appear is the ThickButtons keyboard now available for Android handsets via Android Market.
The latest version of the innovative app, version 0.6, has just been launched at DEMO 2010 and works using a simple but clever concept. Basically, as you type a word, the ThickButtons virtual keyboard refers to a dictionary and adjusts the width of the keys for the letters you are most likely to need next, making them wider and easier to press, while making the other keys narrower. The interface also keeps predicting the word you're typing with a side scrolling list of candidates across the top of the keyboard as shown in the image of the keyboard on the right. The developer has also stated that ThickButtons is less dependent on the dictionary compared to other predictive text input systems, and hence is able to learn new words, slang, and acronyms much quicker.
I am all for a better, smarter virtual keyboard on our touch screens and I think that ThickButtons is potentially a very good yet simple idea. Of course there is also the more radical alternative of Swype, recently used to set a new Guiness World Record for texting, although it is only in a closed Beta stage for Android. ThickButtons is available now on Android Market and will be headed to Windows Mobile soon. Unfortunately I don't have an Android smartphone handy to test out the app for myself, but would love to hear what you all think in the comments. Check out the ThickButtons website and the video below for more information.