February saw some considerable new apps, both in terms of new services like YouTube Kids and Sling TV, and in expanded tools like PhotoMath and Microsoft's first custom keyboard for Android. If you find it hard to see the tiny type on your new ultra-high-res phone, check out BIG Notifications. Below are our top seven picks from last month, along with some honorable mentions.
I'm going to be honest, when Mad Catz announced the $300 controller/stand/keyboard/Bat'leth that is the LYNX 9, I thought the company had gone off the deep end. But their latest Bluetooth combo gadget actually looks sort of cool.
There are two kinds of physical keyboard users: those who never touch the 10-key area (that's the bit on the right that kinda looks like a calculator) and those who will only let you take their 10-key away when you pry it from their cold, dead hands. There's a reason you see a little add-on USB 10-key in that one aisle at Best Buy: data entry experts, especially those that work with Microsoft Excel, need those extra keys like Texans need 15-round ammo magazines. Well, 10-key addicts, Microsoft is here to help you nurse your addiction on Android.
Redmond has just released Keyboard for Excel, which is (wait for it) an Android virtual keyboard designed to be used with Excel.
Swype, the keyboard that made gesture-based typing famous, is still alive and kicking. The company has just crammed enough new features into its Android app to bump things up to version 1.8.
What's on the changelog? Cool stuff, that's what. Stuff like new Lollipop-friendly themes that even stock Android lovers will be able to install without holding their nose. There's a dark one, a light one, and a third theme called Bumblebee because why not?
Tablet users can now detach their Swype keyboard from the bottom of the screen and move it around however they like. It might make typing a little more awkward, but that is absolutely not the point.
The newest version of SwiftKey opens the third-party keyboard up to millions upon millions of people. How? By officially bringing Chinese language support out of beta. There are seven new input methods total, with ways to type in Simplified, Taiwan Traditional, and Hong Kong Traditional Chinese.
We've known that Razer was working on its own branded version of an Android TV set-top box for more than half a year, but at CES 2015 the well-known gaming peripheral company has given the gadget its coming out party. The Razer Forge TV hopes to be the go-to choice for gamers, with support for up to four simultaneous players, keyboard and mouse input, and (eventually) streaming high-end games from a local gaming PC.
The Forge TV box itself is a nondescript slab that looks something like a blacked-out version of a Mac Mini with Razer's triple snake logo on top.
The latest Minuum update is a good one for people who speak multiple languages. This third-party keyboard's developers have added in experimental simultaneous multilingual support. Now you can type away at the single row of characters at the bottom of the screen and receive recommendations from two or more languages at once.
Since using multiple languages requires downloading separate language packs, the Minuum folks have touched up this part of the interface. In addition to an in-app progress bar, a notification appears that can show you how much of the download remains while you move on to do other things.
Fleksy 5.0 is now up on Google Play, and it comes with more than just its usual promise to speed up how quickly you type. The team has added extensions to the third-party keyboard, which allow it to do things ranging from adding a number row to inserting GIFs and launching apps. It's great functionality, and if you've yet to give Fleksy a chance or you've been taking an extended break, now would be a good time to give it another go.
This release readies Fleksy for Android Lollipop, bringing along a spiffy materially designed interface and new themes that, while not completely matching the look of Google Keyboard, comes closer than the previous version of the app.
Android Lollipop has started rolling out to people in the months since version 3.3 of Fleksy hit the Play Store, and the third-party keyboard's developers aren't just settling for giving the next release a material theme. The beta contains a new interface, plenty of new themes, and keyboard extensions. This last category is the one we're most excited to see.
The Material keyboard themes look less like Google's and more like simple recolored versions of Fleksy, and while they're not particularly exciting, at least they're not indicative of the effort the developers have taken to make the app look at home on Android 5.0.
The Fleksy gesture-based, third-party keyboard is currently on sale for 75% off, which brings the cost down to 99 cents. It will remain at this price until Friday while the company celebrates its latest round of good fortune.
Fleksy has secured $2 million in funding from Digital Garage, Eniac Ventures, Middleland Capital, Highland Capital Partners, Militello Capital, and other investors. This comes less than a year after the product exited beta back in December of 2013, and it follows last month's announcement of the keyboard's first OEM partnership (it will come installed on the Samsung Gear S).
Turning to gestures is not uncommon for third-party keyboard designers looking to create the next revolution in mobile text input. Rather than produce something funky, Fleksy takes a traditional layout and replaces many of the non-character keys (backspace, enter, space) with swipes.