I really don't want to hate Snapkey's Si Evolution keyboard. It's innovative, and as the forward thinking individual that I tell myself I am, I want to be encouraging. But here's the thing, innovative solutions should fix something. That's why they're called solutions in the first place. The Si Evolution keyboard is kind of cool, and given enough devotion, it might even speed up your typing, but it simply breaks more than it fixes.
When I first launched Si Evolution, it crashed like that was its job. Yet since this app just left beta and doesn't officially launch until next week, I'll give it a pass for that. Now that the app works, it starts up with the usual keyboard orientation process that gets the job done, but it commits quite a few sins in the process. The how-to video links out to Chrome, rather than the YouTube app, and having a step demand that I go view another app by Snapkeys makes me feel squirmy. This type of behavior usually warrants an uninstall from me, but I'll admit I'm more uptight than most. Yet when you take in that god-awful menu button at the bottom of the screen on my HTC One, you can see why the setup process thoroughly left me with a bad first impression.
Now for the meat and potatoes of the matter. In short, Si Evolution does away with the traditional qwerty setup and divides the alphabet into four different buttons. Three primary letters are emphasized on each button and must be pressed like normal keys would be. To access the remaining letters, tap the space between these four buttons and let the keyboard guess what letter you intended. While the predictions were terrible when Eric first tested the Snapkeys Si Keyboard beta six months ago, now they're pretty solid.
That said, most of Eric's critique still applies. This "invisible" keyboard uses up every bit as much space as a traditional keyboard would. Instead of squeezing the app into half of the available screen real estate like most keyboards do, it simply plasters bright buttons on top of all of the information you care about. This can be a real usability issue in apps where the bottom half suddenly becomes inaccessible whenever the keyboard is up.
While using Si Evolution has gotten easier over the course of the day, it still feels more like conquering a logic puzzle than perfecting a tool. I feel proud of myself when I successfully manage to peck out letters from the correct bubble, but I immediately panic and switch to a real keyboard when actual typing must be done. I simply have to think too much about getting the words on the screen to actually give thought to what it is I want to say. This is a particular hang-up that I don't have when typing on a keyboard, writing with a pen, or scraping a rock into a tree. All of those things are intuitive, even if they're not all efficient. This keyboard, sadly, is neither.
At the end of the day, I'm writing this article on a computer, and this computer uses a qwerty keyboard just like all of the other keyboards in my life. It doesn't benefit me to make myself forget the qwerty key placement only to have to re-learn it every time I return to any other device. That said, it's kind of fun to tinker with Si Evolution for a while. It's free, so you have nothing to lose by derping around with it. Just don't expect to use this "invisible" keyboard for anything other than amusement.