I’ve been a big fan of third-party keyboards on Android for quite a while: SwiftKey X offers some of the best word prediction, Thumb Keyboard makes typing on my tablet much easier, and Swype revolutionized the way we even think about touch input. But after more than a week with my HTC One S, I think that HTC has finally gotten it right.
Before I go on, I should clarify: I think that HTC has always had a strong offering in the keyboard department. But for the first time since owning an Android device, I have not experienced any desire to download a different keyboard, and that’s saying something.
First, let me talk about the appearance of the stock keyboard in Sense 4.0: put simply, it looks really slick now. I know that it’s really just a color change, but it’s amazing what a difference that can make.
Additionally, HTC has brought back the bottom navigation keys, which many people missed in Sense 3.0. As we know, it can sometimes be difficult to place the cursor in the exact spot we need inside of a big block of text with our own fat fingers, so that bottom row is a much-needed, and much-appreciated, addition.
Next, let’s talk about the trace feature: this works just like Swype, and the accuracy is now just as good. This feature was present and functional in Sense 3.0, but the accuracy was never as good as Swype or other third-party alternatives. But now, it’s almost flawless in Sense 4.0. Additionally, as a nice added touch, you can choose exactly what color you want your trace to be: black, green, blue, purple, light gray, red, yellow, and white. As a matter of fact, trace is so good that HTC no longer bundles Swype with its phones.
I know it may seem silly to go on and on about a keyboard, but when touch input is your only option on a phone (other than speech), it’s crucial that phone manufacturers get it right. In this case, HTC did just that: while I wish that HTC would have kept the option to use Google’s stock ICS keyboard, I don’t really miss it that much. The included keyboard, plain and simple, just works.