Android keyboard app shoot-out - Fleksy, Minuum, Swiftkey, and Swype battle for glory

Developer: WhirlscapeDownload: Android
Genre: KeyboardPrice: Free / $3.99

Minuum is a keyboard that will blow your mind! It's the world's only app that compresses an entire keyboard into a single row of characters... and completely works! It's also the only keyboard fit for smart-watches, unless you're willing to devote 80% of their tiny screen to letters. Minuum is truly innovative and if you take a few minutes to read more about the algorithms and methods it uses to work its magic, you will walk away very impressed.

1. Look and feel

Minuum is a two-headed beast. You can have it either as a conventional Android keyboard, or let it show its true colors and minimize it to a single row of buttons. You can switch between the two on the fly by holding two fingers on the keys. We felt like the standard layout is better for more elaborate typing, as there is less chance the auto-correct will monkey up more unusual words, while the miniature layout is absolutely bomb for casual messaging. Your mileage may vary.

Unlike its competitors, Minuum has just three built-in themes and the option to choose custom background and foreground colors. Minuum has a certain logic to it that doesn't lend well to heavy skinning. Aside from colors, you can customize certain elements' height very precisely by adjusting it in pixels.

2. Control efficiency

Minuum is pretty minimal when it comes to gesture control. The option to enable or disable it goes hand in hand with the space-bar - you can either turn off the spacebar and have gestures, turn gestures off and have the spacebar, or have them both. Killing the spacebar will shave off an additional pixel or 10 from Minuum's miniature presence. As for the gesture controls, they are basic and intuitive - swipe left to backspace/delete, swipe right to space, swipe to the left diagonal to activate voice input, and swipe to the right diagonal to enter. Having to learn and rely on a mere four gestures makes for a small, easy learning curve.

Additionally, Minuum takes a hint from Swype, and populates its keys with symbol shortcuts. Press and hold on a key, choose the needed symbol, and go on typing. This works just a tad slower than Swype, but it's still very usable. The 'Shift' key contains some additional shortcuts, such as a number pad, keyboard minimize and maximize, access to the Settings menu, voice input, and a shortcut for choosing the default keyboard. If you activate the so-called "Bonus menu", look for a star in the right corner, and press it. You'll get an additional row that lets you scroll between emoji, a directional pad, a copy and paste menu, a dictionary search menu, and a words-per-minute meter. While it might seem a bit overwhelming, having so much functionality on tap in so little space is a standout for Minuum. Finally, punctuation happens by double-spacing. Overall, Minuum controls swiftly, and is a prime example of making the most out of very little space. Once again, very impressive!

3. Typing efficiency

To get the most out of Minuum, you will have to learn to trust its auto-correct more than anything else in your life. It's worth it, because the word replacement accuracy is very good, and when you scale down the keyboard to its miniaturized mode, it's pure black magic unveiling itself before you. Instead of making you type better, Minuum embraces your sloppiness and uses it to get better at literally trying to understand what you meant to type. It evaluates input by a spatial model that measures your typing precision, and a language model built from huge bodies of real-world text. For the most part, it works, and when it does, it's downright amazing - it makes other keyboards look archaic in comparison.

This doesn't mean you'll necessarily type better on Minuum, though. Realistically, it means you'll get a very adequate touch typing and auto-correct experience while having significantly more screen space available to you. This is of disputable importance on modern large-screen devices, but it's arguably the future when it comes to smart-watches. Also, typing a long word that will be confusing to spell out even in the realm of pen and paper, on a one-row keyboard, and being understood... is astounding!

4. Misc features

Minuum is light on bonus features. It has the option of importing words from the Android user dictionary, along with the names of your contacts. This way, the keyboard won't auto-correct their names. You can also backup and restore your typing data at any time, or reset everything. Also, there are some technical options for enabling and disabling animations, the enter-to-send function, auto capitalization and spacing, and more.


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