It's no secret that we at Android Police are huge fans of AirDroid. A big part of that is because the developer is constantly updating the app with new features. So it is with the latest version, 3.2, which adds a handful of new goodies to the remote management tool. Some of these require use with an updated version of the dedicated desktop app (instead of the more popular browser version).
The coolest addition to the program is the ability to type directly into input fields on your phone with your computer's keyboard, which is now the best possible solution for typing on Android until someone releases a mechanical keyboard five inches wide.
Compared to the early days of Android and iOS, it's amazing how good virtual keyboards have become... but that doesn't mean there's no room for improvement. Long email and street addresses in particular are a pain to type in, especially outside of the browser where saved user information isn't available. If you're tired of typing out your thirty-character company email address, Texpand can help: it allows you to create customized shortcodes for longer strings of text and use them in any text field.
Human capacity for speech seems infinite, but after writing a steady stream of text messages, emails, and posts over the years, things start to get repetitive. PhraseExpress has spared Windows users sentences, paragraphs, and pages worth of mundane conversation since its release, and now the software is ready to do the same for Android.
The Autotext PhraseExpress Android app has the ability to save any number of text snippets (though the free version is limited to 25), organizing them into a folder hierarchy similar to bookmarks. To insert them, just hit a key at the bottom of your keyboard, navigate to the correct folder, and select the desired phrase.
A mobile keyboard is only as good as the number of languages it supports. Keyword: supports. The keys we press on our keyboards may seem pretty simple to get right, but sometimes manufacturers don't ship devices with everything functioning and available out of the box, including entire languages. In those cases, the sooner an update arrives, the better. So HTC is making over 40 Sense Input languages available on Google Play, speeding up and simplifying the way it can push out future updates and language packs.
Here's a manually compiled list of all the HTC Sense Input languages now offered through the Play Store.
Using a virtual keyboard may not feel as natural as a physical one, but it's only the worst way to input text with a touchscreen except for all of the other ones. Swype has had the most success in revolutionizing how we enter text, as all of the major Android keyboards have since introduced gesture-based typing in subsequent upgrades, but it's far from perfect. That brings us to FlickKey Keyboard. It's a sliding keyboard that, by grouping letters into square groups of nine, aims to reduce how far across the screen our fingers need to slide.
Tapping a square enters the character in the middle.
Most current smartwatches, such as the Pebble and the Galaxy Gear, serve as notification hubs for whatever smartphone is paired to them, but this limitation is something several Kickstarter projects have sought to change by effectively turning smartwatches into phones themselves. This approach doesn't address how ludicrous it is to peck out words on such a tiny screen, but Minuum, the Android keyboard that fits the entire alphabet into a single row, could just be the ideal solution. The team has released a video showing the magic in action.
On phones, I find using Minuum to be more hassle than it's worth, especially when the time comes to type out passwords (even with its ability to pull out a full keyboard as needed).
Swype pioneered the use of gestures to enter words into our mobile devices, a feature that competitors have since picked up, including the keyboard that now ships pre-installed on Google's Nexus devices. Yet while Swype remains a champ at forming words out of our illegible squiggles, it hasn't been the fastest option for manually typing out words the old fashioned way. Now the app has received an update that the team promises significantly improves tap input. They've also addressed performance issues when typing out lengthy text entries and moving the cursor around to erase more specific parts of a sentence.
These enhancements are joined by additional bug fixes that will affect more specific users.
Traditionally word processors have tasked themselves with producing nice, printable documents. Mobile versions have followed up with the unenviable task of replicating this functionality on much smaller screens. Quip throws this entire concept out of the window, instead creating a writing experience built for the ground up for mobile devices. The team released an alpha version over the summer, but it was little more than a demo of the iOS version of the app. Now the full version is available, and it looks right at home on Android devices.
It's pretty easy to understand why typing isn't exactly an optimal experience on a smartphone. They are designed to fit in palms and come with virtual keys smaller than the fingertips used to press them. Tablets don't suffer from this problem, but they come with one of their own - a user can type speedily using the significantly larger keys, but resting their fingers on the screen for a mere second is all it takes to turn "superpower" to "sauerkraut," and suddenly that status update about whether America should get involved in Syria accumulates a different flood of Facebook comments than was expected.
I'm a huge fan of text expanders. Seriously, they are necessary to me. As a regular user of both Mac and Windows, I have sought out solutions on both platforms and rely on them daily. That's why I've always felt horrified that there weren't any great options on Android. After all, mobile devices are already input-impaired, it only makes sense that we need quality shortcuts. As it turns out, such a shortcut has been under our noses for quite some time, tucked away where few would look and only available with the stock Android 4.1 (or higher) keyboard. But, thanks to the newly minted availability of the Google Keyboard on the Play Store, it's time to call out this great little feature.