Most 3rd party keyboard replacements for mobile devices simply enhance the familiar QWERTY layout, but this ambitious design really caught my attention. Sadly, since iOS doesn’t allow keyboard replacements, 8pen is only available for Android—but regardless of what OS you use, it’s worth a look.
Instead of using a miniaturized keyboard layout, 8pen has been designed from the ground up to work efficiently on small screens. It may look cumbersome at first, but if you saw a QWERTY keyboard for the first time you would probably think the same thing. It uses a 4 quadrant layout to allow fast, single finger text input.
A characters [sic] is produced by pressing down in the centre, entering any of the 4 sectors, and then passing through either 1, 2, 3 or 4 adjacent sectors in either clockwise or anti-clockwise direction, before returning to the centre. The order of the letters along the edges, and the side on which they are placed, indicate the number of sectors to be passed through, and the direction of the movement, respectively.
If that sounds confusing, watch the video demonstration. This new layout may take some getting used to, but 8pen seems like it would be almost immune to typos, since the actual clickable areas are so large. Commonly used words or phrases can be assigned to unique gestures, so typing out your name could be as easy as swiping a figure-eight.
It’s always good to see innovation, and not just the same rehash of old designs, so I’m extremely excited to try out 8pen. There’s a good chance that it will be a total flop, but I’m crossing my fingers for something amazing. It’s stuff like this that makes me wish Apple were more open.
8pen will be released tomorrow, so if you have an Android device, try it out and let us know how it works!
Update: It’s on the Market!