One of the cool new features for Windows Phone 8.1 that Microsoft announced at the Build conference was an addition to their WordFlow keyboard, a new input method called Shape Writing. It essentially lets the user type in words without lifting up their finger, creating shapes by sliding across to the letters they want to type to form a word. It’s Microsoft’s own native solution to Swype, the popular input method for Android users. As part of this announcement, Microsoft also announced that through this new Shape Writing keyboard, they have now achieved the record for the world’s fastest texting! It was accomplished by 15-year-old Gaurav Sharma, who managed to beat out the previous record by just over 2 seconds (it was previously won on a Samsung Galaxy device)! That’s quite an achievement, especially for having used software that was still in beta!
The Windows Phone 8.1 update is coming this summer, with the developer preview just under way, but I got a chance to play around with the update at the Nokia event in San Francisco nearly 2 weeks ago. It was pretty solid, and the shape writing worked pretty well! I was a little rusty, as I haven’t used any Swype-like keyboards in a couple years, but I pretty much got the hang of it again. Fortunately, that would come in handy later on…
Amid all the noise and clamor going on at the event, I slipped away from the devices to check out what else was going on. I got to see some display readability comparisons and got a cool demo of 8.1 from Nokia’s own Adam Giles aka Gilesy. I then walked over to a a table where I saw two Lumia 930’s places side-by-side. I went to pick one up and noticed a sentence on the table in front of the devices. One of the ladies who was standing around then said that I should try to type the sentence using the Shape-Writing keyboard. ‘Oh, alright,’ I thought, shrugging indifferently, basically just down for any chance to play with the phones. I start typing in the sentence: “Heard you have an extra ticket for tonight’s game against Cincinnati. I’m in. Go Giants!” Not only was it fast, but it was incredibly accurate; I didn’t make a single mistake.
Next thing I know, the Nokia people standing around were telling me how fast I was and pointing up at a screen on the wall. Turns out they were recording me as I typed so that it was being displayed in real-time, while simultaneously timing me against other people. I was completely oblivious to this, but thought it was cool either way. My time was somewhere between 18.40 seconds, and I was currently in the lead for fastest texter. Another guy, whose name escapes me, came up after me and tried it out, clocking in at somewhere over 21 seconds. Close, but not good enough! The Nokia people told us that the top 5 fastest will have to come back a little later to claim a prize. Everyone else was getting around 25-30 seconds, so I figured my top spot was safe. A little later came, and I returned to the Shape-Writing area, where I remained #1 , and for that received a cool SF fitted cap and an envelope. The guy who gave me the envelope told me that inside it was $200 worth of Microsoft store credit and that with this I would be able to go to a Microsoft store and basically claim the Lumia 635 when it’s released!
I couldn’t believe it! Who knew that my rusty ‘swype’ texting would win me a new smartphone! Thanks, Nokia!
I can’t wait to get more practice with the Shape-Writing keyboard. Back when I had my Nokia N8, Swype was my main method of input, and as I moved to Windows Phone I did notice my texting speed slowed. Don’t get me wrong, the Word Flow keyboard is pretty great, and also surprisingly accurate sometimes, but it still couldn’t match my speed when I was swiping my words away.
Looks like I’ll get my chance today!
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