18
Jun
unnamed

Minuum Keyboard launched an IndieGoGo campaign back in March, and by the time it was over in April, the developers had raised almost $90,000. That's 873% of the goal. It was a big vote of confidence from Android users, but Minuum promised something unique – a keyboard that takes up only a tiny strip of screen real estate, yet still provides all the functionality you need. It sounds crazy on the face of it, but what if it's not just smoke and mirrors?

The beta app has been launched for IndieGoGo backers in Google Play, exactly as promised. Let's see if it lives up to the hype.


How It Works

When you get into a text field, Minuum pops up like any other keyboard would, but it doesn't eat up your screen. Instead, you get a small strip of compressed letters 240 pixels tall. If you look, you'll notice that it's a staggered QWERTY layout that's been squished. Above the letters are an assortment of commonly used numbers and symbols.

2013-06-18 11.50.35 2013-06-18 16.24.31

Minuum is about keeping your screen real estate by utilizing powerful predictive technologies. It's the same basic tenet guiding the development of Fleksy, another beta keyboard I looked at recently. Flesky relies on muscle memory to have you tap at invisible keys, but Minuum throws all that out the window. The keys aren't where you expect them to be, but they're almost where you expect. All you have to do is start pressing buttons.

As you type, your finger will land on multiple letters – it would be impossible to hit just one. Minuum takes its best guess, and starts actively altering letters as you go. The suggestion bar right above the keys is where you can look to see what you have so far. Minuum highlights its best guess, and places what you've actually typed to the left. Other guesses are to the right in the suggestion bar.

2013-06-18 16.28.15

Okay, so there's a lot of tapping. That's easy to wrap your mind around, but things get more interesting when you get to the swiping gestures. You get a space by swiping left to right. Do the opposite for backspace. To select specific letters in an unrecognized word, tap and drag upward to get a magnified interface. This is also how you access the top row of numbers and symbols.

If you long-press and drag to the side, that pulls up some "hot corner" shortcuts for enter, space, settings, and backspace. The shift button in the suggestion bar is also a long-press shortcut to the alternative symbol keyboard and settings. The floating mode from the above video doesn't appear to be part of the current release, but it might just be hidden.

Put all this together, and it's Minuum. It definitely takes up less space than other keyboards, but that's only part of the equation.

But Does It Work?

The first sentence I typed on Minuum made my jaw drop. I don't want to be hyperbolic, but I was genuinely shocked. There is something incredible going on with this keyboard's predictive algorithms, because it's really good. The location of your presses might have only a loose association to the letters you're trying to type, but this app usually guesses correctly.

The longer I use Minuum, the more I'm learning to trust it. You can get into a rhythm of tapping and swiping to insert space. I feel like I can actually look at my screen while inputting text rather than my fingers. This is the closest I've gotten to reliable touch-typing on a smartphone. The bottom line here is that Minuum inputs dictionary words as well as any keyboard I've ever used.

2013-06-18 15.44.41 2013-06-18 16.22.48

I think the hardest part of adjusting to Minuum is getting used to swiping for spaces and backspaces. It still trips me up from time to time because I have such strong muscle memory to tap the space bar. I expected the squashed keyboard layout would get to me, but once you stop stressing over it, it's fine.

One strange thing – Minuum gets considerably less usable in landscape mode. Everything is still very close together, but you have to reach so much farther. It's basically amplifying the issues all keyboard interfaces have in landscape mode. It would be a different story if the floating UI shown off in the video was present.

The place a lot of wacky keyboards fall down is when you need to enter a password, name, or some other non-dictionary word. It's usually a hassle to move away from a highly-automated system to a more manual one for those events. Minuum handles it better than most, but it's still not ideal. The magnification long-press works very well – just press in the general vicinity of the desired letter, number, or symbol, and drag up through the enlarged pop up. It's very intuitive, and I like this method compared to some other apps. Although, it's still slower in this respect than full-size QWERTY keyboards.

2013-06-18 15.43.44 2013-06-18 16.33.54 2013-06-18 11.43.17

So to answer the original question: yes, Minuum does work. In fact, it works really well. This is the first release – 1.0 of a beta product. It's actually rather amazing when you look at it like that. I love having more screen real estate, and even the slow-downs from inputting unrecognized words aren't that bad. Even though there are some rough edges to be smoothed, the developers have done something great here. I have high hopes for this product going forward.

The Google Play link below will not work if you aren't in the supporter beta program.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Tim Wing

    damn I really want to try it

  • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

    I want to try it, but I have a strong feeling that I'll quickly return to a swiping alternative.

    • mrjayviper

      swiping just rock! :D

  • Leroy

    I wonder how many people not in the beta clicked the link. I did :)

    • Matthew Fry

      I wonder how many people *in the beta* clicked it and got "Not Found." I did. :(

      • Kenny O

        I wonder how many people *in the beta* still have not gotten their invitation email......cough....me.....cough.

        • Daniel Pogue

          Me too, you are not alone.

          • Kenny O

            Thank you. I am definitely more patient when I know I'm not alone. :-)

          • Jeff718

            Still haven't...

        • Grant

          I'm in the mean time playing with the beta apk having acquired it trough "3rd party channels" and side loading it

        • Matthew Fry

          I just got it! Yay!

        • Brandon Watkins
  • alias

    Why can't I download it???

    • Chronus719

      Did you read the article (or at least the last paragraph)?

  • Chronus719

    Really want to try this keyboard, but unfortunately found out about it after the campaign had ended. Guess I'll have to either wait for an apk or full release.

    • pynner

      just go to minuum.com and sign up for the next round of beta testing, sure you wont get it right away, but you'll get to try it for free eventually!

      • Chronus719

        Thanks for the heads up. I've signed up for the beta and hope to be testing soon.

  • louched1

    A new keyboard? Cool! Oh, I can't have it? Guess I'll just forget about this and stick with Swype.

    • skeeterfood

      Go to minuum.com and sign up for the next round of beta testing if you want to try it.

    • Matthew Fry

      Not like they didn't tell you about it. Android Police is the one that sent me to the indiegogo project page.

    • Brandon Watkins

      Or you can just search it on Google there's a link to download it .but sadly they took all my links down...I guess I can't help ppl out on this site...

      • Christopher Lee

        They took your links down because you are posting warez. The keyboard went out in a paid beta for a reason.

  • Aaron Huffman

    I should be getting my beta group invite sometime soon!

  • Techwings

    Imagine a thin glove with this built in and a Google Glass app to support it. Now imagine typing in thin, virtual air. Google needs to buy this and build it into Glass.

    • David Margolin

      this would actually work really well with glass... im not comfy with twist my finger in mid air in front of everyone (like im pointing at each person)... but this could go well with just swiping from side to side on the small touch sensitive panel on glass...

  • Brian Menius

    I'm still waiting for my Google Group notification. I guess they're sending them out in waves.

    • Matthew Fry

      Yeah. That's what I was wondering. Link doesn't work for me yet :(

    • Brandon Watkins
      • Brian Menius

        I got mine about an hour ago; at least they're making progress.

      • creed

        Thanks for the download

  • Casin

    I'm in the beta program and the link did not work. How do I verify to the link that I'm in the beta program? Do I have to wait for an email invite?

  • Royal2000H

    I'm not in the beta, but just spitballing here.. it would be nice if you could 2-finger gesture up (like gesturing in Fleksy), but here it would bring up a full keyboard for passwords, etc. A hell of a lot faster than switching to another keyboard and less annoying than holding down each key.

    • Casin

      That's a brilliant idea.

  • bydh

    I had the same initial impressions as in the post above. I found that enabling the space bar option makes things a bit easier and more natural coming from a full size on screen keyboard. Also, since I'm on a note2, it pushes the keyboard up a little higher, and makes it easier for me to grip my phone while typing (if you have a nexus device with on screen buttons, then this is less of an issue, but you may still prefer to have the spacebar).

    The word predictions work ok, but not as well as something like swiftkey, which is my go to android keyboard. I'm gonna run with minuum for a week or so, and see how I feel about it, but my initial impressions are positive.

  • Jean-Francois Messier

    I got my beta invite redirected to my actual GMail address ( I used another one to register). After a few "not found" clicks, I got it, and it's now installed on my three Android devices. I just can't wait to start using it.

  • Matthew Fry

    Just received this email:
    "The Google Play Store beta testing feature is experiencing bugs that are preventing us from rolling out the beta to all the supporters at once.

    We’ve been dealing with Google Play Store tech support throughout the day but the way things stand right now, we can only roll out the invites in batches of 10 at a time (and having to enter captchas after each batch). Even with our whole team entering email addresses, things are understandably moving slower than we’d like.

    If you haven’t received your invite yet, we would appreciate your patience while we navigate Google’s experimental beta platforms.

    We’d also appreciate if you could please hold off on emailing us to ask about when you’ll be receiving the beta, as sorting through emails makes the process of sending invites go even slower. As soon as we think that we’ve sent all the invites, we will announce the completion of the rollout. If at that time you still haven’t received the beta, please let us know then.

    Thank you very much for your enthusiasm, patience, and support! Because of you, we have a brand-new Minuum beta ready for you to try, and we’re doing our best to get it to you as soon as possible.

    Best
    The Minuum Team"

    • Brandon Watkins

      http://www68.zippyshare.com/v/44016023/file.html

      you can get it from this link.

      • Ezzy

        Aaaand this is how you get malware on mobile :P

        • Brandon Fletcher

          So, you've confirmed this is malware? Or just talking crap for no reason?

        • GazaIan

          Sharing a link to a legitimate file is suddenly malware? Malware doesn't just magically pop into a file because it's on a public hosting server, you know.

        • Ezzy

          Aaaand this is how you know you know nothing.

        • Brandon Watkins

          actually sir when you download this you can check it with the new Google feature that will scan and check for malware beforehand and you will see that It Is A normal app.or you can download lookout from the Google play store and it will scan it as well. I posted this on here to help ppl. So what you said insults me And my good intentions. although I can see how this looks fishy.but I can assure all of you that This isn't bs and can even post pictures if you'd like.

  • JediBrooker

    perhaps for passwords there could be a password "gesture" that expands the keyboard to be a full-size keyboard to make it easier to enter precise keystrokes.

    • KrisDiss

      Why wait for a gesture. Expand to full keyboard automatically when a password field is detected?

  • Gambi

    Does it support multiple languages?

  • ash71ish

    gytfb

  • Daniel

    They need to get this on everything. Make it the official android keyboard.

  • Tomáš Petrík

    What about non-English languages (read: every other language)?

  • PSWF

    I would do almost ANYTHING to get a copy of this APK. Anyone need a favour, anything done?

    Desperate, SO cross I didnt sign up for the BETA! I am an idiot!

    • goran

      Just search the Internet. I found it in less than a minute but I uninstalled it because I didn't pay for it and most important it sucks. Fleksy does the same thing and the betta is free.

      • fixxmyhead

        Same here. It sucks . back to swiping

      • PSWF

        I must be searching wrong, have tried all over ... must be doing something wrong :(

        • PSWF

          I found it! Love it! Thanks WILL gladly pay for this!

  • silaslenz

    It does work pretty good, much better than expected. I don't think I would pay for it in it's current state, but that is mostly due to missing language support. Except that, I have to admit that I'm already typing nearly as fast on this as on swiftkey.

    The first few sentences blew me away, with amazing auto correct. And one last note, the dictionary kind of sucks. Swiftkey, please buy this company!

  • Typongtv

    You can always enable space bar in settings......

  • goran

    I tried it and Fleksy is much better the layout of the letters are weird on minuum. Fleksy has the keyboard laid out like a normal keyboard. Much easier to type without looking when you know the general area where the letters are. I typed this whole thing while watching tv with Fleksy.

  • pig

    keypad77 for laptop without QWERTY
    keypad77 com

  • pig

    L7 wireless multikeypad for ring finger

  • disqus_BQDyNtQUHs

    i dont believe it

  • Brandon Watkins

    wow its amazing...... even if you don't have beta accuse you can use this! http://www68.zippyshare.com/v/44016023/file.html for some reason it doesnt work with chrome beta, but the stock sense browser, worked fine.

  • Eric Jones

    Interesting. I'll have to give it a go once it goes live to the general public.

  • kpjimmy

    I got my invite to test yesterday. Looks good and I agree with the review thus far. I haven't run it through it's paces and like many of you guys, I also came from fleksy and swiftkey lol.

    I was using fleksy prior to this and was ok with the kb. This one is indeed different and takes a little learning, much like fleksy. But I do like it.

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