Nov 02 AT 3:31 PM Taylor Wimberly 41 Comments

If the keyboard was invented today for mobile devices… [VIDEO]

If the keyboard was invented today for mobile devices, would it have looked the same? That’s the question 8pen is trying to answer with their new virtual keyboard. Over 100k people have already watched the 8pen demo video, but in case you missed out take four minutes of your time and check it out below.

The developer describes the benefits of 8pen as: “Its advantage lies mainly in the fact that it is possible to input text faster than using conventional layouts on small devices, while at the same time mimicking human hand-writing. Moreover, the simplicity of the gestures involved greatly reduces the problem of mistyping that frequently occurs with the classical layout due to the lack of space. For the same reason, it is possible to write without viewing, as only the central region is needed as a reference for starting and ending a movement.”

The 8pen keyboard is now available in the Android Market for only $1.56 and it looks like it could be pretty interesting once you become familiar with its unique style. The 8pen keyboard was supposed to include support for Google’s voice recognition feature, but in order to support older devices from Android 1.6 forward, the feature has been removed.

Please share your feedback if you were brave enough to try it out. Do you think 8pen could replace Swype as the most popular alternative keyboard?

Source: 8pen

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://Website @neidlinger

    Download 8pen
    tried it out
    deleted 8pen
    still using SWYPE….

    • http://Website David


  • http://Website JohnB

    Someone has actually tried this keyboard:

    I have to admit though, it doesn’t look too promising….

  • http://Website jr

    Downloaded 8pen. Still trying to get used to it… not sure if it replaces swype. The placement of symbols in front of letters is definitely a deal breaker for me. But does operate smoothly if you can remember where are the letter are.

    • Alpha

      I tried it too last night and it’s definitely interesting. I have a little trouble remembering where the letters are, but you can get used to it. I don’t have Swype on my Streak yet, but I’m keeping 8pen for some shiggles.

      • http://Website Zem

        My roommate and I are treating it like a game. Defeat the levels until you get to the final stage, the Black dot surrounded by nothing. The win occurs when you hand the phone to a friend and they look at you in confusion :) A simple black dot to enter all your text by making mysterious squigglies.

        My roommate and I also did decide that the learning curve on 8pen is roughly as steep as a wall. You’ve just got to keep clawing at it until you get over it.

  • http://Website Steffen

    Looks pretty cool, but kind of like a keyboard equivalent of a rotary dial phone. I can’t imagine I could type very fast on it. I might give it a shot though.

  • Brent Pierce


    Did you see how long it took to type just a few words in that video? And that’s with the EXAGGERATED animated finger. No thanks. I’d rather swype an entire word instead of single letters.

    This is doomed to fail immediately. I’m not sure what they were smoking when they thought of this.

  • http://Website Gee

    Seems to make up for the lack of space but sacrifices speed – overall a waste of money.

    Crazy learning curve and seems like it’ll be slower than swype or regular on screen QWERTY keyboards when mastered.

  • heroid007

    The concept is innovative, doesn’t mean its great, but the developer wants money from the git go?? I don’t even know if it works or not, how am I going to pay for this and try? (I know I can always get my money back, but the fact that there is no trial period from the developer makes it as less attractive of an offer!)

    • Joel

      I think it is innovative but very ill-timed….had this concept arrived before swipe, and the actual concept tweaked a bit more, then juuust maaaybe.

      In either case at this point voice recognition is improving now to the point where we barely have to type much at all…at the end of the day, imo just speaking to your phone and having it write for you beats all i think

  • http://Website jason

    worst. keyboard. ever.

  • http://Website Namelessted

    Firstly, I wouldn’t pay for a virtual keyboard.

    Secondly, that just looks really weird. Having not used it, I imagine it would have a HUGE learning curve to learn where all of the letters are. I also can’t imagine it would ever be faster than using swype since it doesn’t seem to have predictive typing and requires an input for every single character.

    Swype:T9 :: 8pen:Abc, in my opinion

  • http://Website level32

    Can’t find it in the market.
    in Canada (Telus Milestone)

  • http://Website skjsd

    This can suck swype’s ****

  • http://Website Angad Singh

    I would rather have a handwriting recognition with auto correct, word prediction and a red underline to the errors….

  • BR_Chesterfield

    Gave it a solid 20 minutes and now I’m back to Swype.

    The amount of time I’d waste over the next few days just trying to remember where each letter is located underneath my thumb, which blocks half of them from view, just isn’t worth it.

  • http://Website B2L

    I used to use swype and I loved it. But then I found SwiftKey and I love that even more. The predictions are just way too awesome to pass up.

  • http://Website tdmg

    Looks great!

    I type Dvorak, so I’m always looking for an alternative to Qwerty.

    I’m willing to put in a few hours to get up to speed on this.

    • http://Website Greg

      As someone who is open to the idea of layout alternatives, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this after a few days of use.

  • http://Website Ben

    @jason, @skjsd and @Brent Pierce , Android is all about variety!

    You don’t need to use this app but dont say its going to fail without using it properly, it was only released today and has alot of potential

    I had already bought and was using this app a few hours before i saw this post. It can be alot faster after use and i really like the fluent movement.

  • http://Website Cam

    After an hour or so of messing with this I did a speed comparison between 8Pen, Swype, and stock. I typed “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” to get a feel for using every letter. I practiced this for a bit with 8Pen before I tested all three. Here are my results…

    8Pen: 1minute 53seconds
    Stock: 16seconds
    Swype: 12seconds

    Maybe it will get faster as I learn where the letters are, but I don’t know that it will ever be as fast as Swype. One gesture per word vs. one gesture per letter (or one very long gesture per word depending on how you look at it)

    • OrganizedFellow

      “One gesture per word vs. one gesture per letter (or one very long gesture per word depending on how you look at it)”.

      VERY well said!
      While I really liked Swype a great deal, I just couldn’t support a company who would leave all us beta users in the cold, and now offer us a paid product, when all these new smartphones coming out have it preinstalled.

      I played with 8Pen for about an hour. I’m keeping it. Along side with my Droid X keyboard, SlideIT and UltraKeyboard. I’m actually getting pretty good at it too!

      I started out with typing each single repeatedly, then letter combos (ab, ac, ad … az, ba, bb, bc, bz) followed by any 3-letter, then 4-letter words I could think of, and even combinations that sound phonetically like words.
      I disabled the auto-correct feature till I get better with my letter combinations.
      I’ll have to try “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” tomorrow though, after some more practice.

    • http://Website Peter

      Good comparison.

      I turned off the letters and lines, so it’s just a dot, and am improving. The letters that I didn’t commit to memory before I did so, I just have to figure out, which helps in remembering for next time.

      Definitely slower than Swype, but lots of fun – having a ball with it.

  • http://Website Matt

    Downloaded it.
    Played with it for about five minutes.
    Became enraged when I was unable to find letters because they were hidden behind my hand.
    Uninstalled it.

  • http://Website Bagera

    I tried it and am amazed at how easy it is to learn and get up to speed. I love it but I haven’t tried Swype. That might be better but this was really interesting.

  • http://Website semianonymous

    Ive been playing with it for a few hours…I think it needs a lot of fine tuning. IMO, lifting your finger should automatically place the letter you are on, and that a spacebar button should be placed. Letters should be larger, and maybe enlarge once you have a selected quarter so you can actually see what in the hell you are typing.

    Maybe have it divided like a plus sign rather than an x could help as well. I get what they were going for with the nexus X, but this isn’t the iPhone. Functionality over form.

    -typed entire from my nexus one using smart keyboard pro

  • Tangent

    Seems to me that even once you have perfect knowledge of where the keys are and what pattern you have to enter for each one that it will be slower than Swype.

    Typing the word “stupid” for example:

    8pen -
    Start in center
    Drag finger left
    Make 1/2 circle clockwise
    Drag back to center
    Drag finger down
    Make 1/4 circle counter clockwise
    Drag back to center
    Drag finger right
    Make 1/2 circle to clockwise
    Drag back to center
    Drag finger down
    Make 3/4 circle to clockwise
    Drag back to center
    Drag finger up
    Make 1/4 circle counter clockwise
    Drag back to center
    Drag finger up
    Make 1/2 circle clockwise
    Drag back to center

    Swype -
    Start on “S”
    Drag to “t”
    Drag to “u”
    Drag to “p”
    Drag to “i”
    Drag to “d”

    That’s a lot of extra mileage even if you know what motion to make for every character by heart. This seems to be an ideal solution for fast text entry if all you have is a joystick…

    • Z4KJ0N3S

      Hey, that’s not a bad idea. I hate using the QWERTY on my 360 with a controller. Takes at least as long as 8pen would at the beginning of the (crazy steep) learning curve, and I can see 8pen being way faster once you get used to it.

  • Z4KJ0N3S


  • http://Website Notoriouslyabsent

    I can’t find it in the market–won’t come up. Is it only available on froyo?

    • Alpha

      No it’s available for Donut too

  • http://Website Mike

    Tried, takes as long to type one character as to swype a whole word. Nice try, but not really worth it.

  • milkykung

    Well, the concept is good. But what about “Letter recognition” by gesture of that letter itself rather going into sequence of finger motion :P

    Writing A, you draw “A” :) I think the handwriting recognition is not new, but is there any progress to implement it on mobile devices?


    • http://Website ceppm

      Some time ago I found an app to use graffitty (Palm’s original ‘hand writing’ recognition system) on Android. Tried for a while just for the fun of remembering how was it 10+ years ago with my old Palm Pilot. It’s still pretty clever but not better than Swype.

  • http://Website Michael Hunter

    How different is this from Chuck Moore’s chordal keyboard?

  • Michael Janssen

    I downloaded it and tried it for a couple days. It was super slow, although I was getting faster at it after two days of forcing myself to use it, I could never be as fast as I was when I was using swype. Swype is just better because as some people have noted here, a whole word is better to get instead of just a single letter.

    On thing that this reminded me of incedibly was graffiti. You remember, the old Palm way of writing letters on the palms. It was reasonably fast, and was similar to handwriting in a way that is much more than this is. It would be a great way to reduce the REAL ESTATE that is taken up by the keyboard on a phone too, which infuriates me a lot of the time. Keyboards take up too much space. Using graffiti input on android would be the best of both worlds, small space, and it takes very little room, but you can still get all of the letters.

  • http://Website david

    This gave my finger aches and pains.

  • http://Website Al

    sooo…. did Anyone like it?

  • http://Website Andrew

    Everyone is whining that swype is faster, but there was never a claim that this is faster. EVERYONE is ignoring that the selling point of this text input method is that you can do it without having to look at your keyboard, since every letter starts at the same point on your screen. swype is great, but the buttons in portrait mode are tiny, and landscape usually requires using one hand to hold my device and the other to input text. I think people should really give this thing a shot. if you think of learning the gestures for each letter like learning a new alphabet, you can probably get it down pretty quick.