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8Pen Android app to change the way we type

David Gilbert


8Pen Android App to Change the Way We Type

We've all had the problem. You type an email on an onscreen keyboard on a touchscreen phone and end up asking your boss does he want to "neet you ib thr hobel at fibe o'clovk."

And those of us not blessed with the most elegant and slim of digits have had particular trouble trying to press the correct button when we are typing quickly. Thankfully for the dexterously-challenged of us out there, 3qubit has come up with a revolutionary new input system which may replace the traditional QWERTY keyboard.

The new system is called 8Pen and is available as an Android app on Android 2.2 from later today according to its website. The new system was developed by 3qubit which is a company started by two PhD mathematics students in Cambridge. 8Pen works by placing your finger on a black dot in the middle of a multi-coloured X and then rotating it through four sectors in a variety of ways to produce letters, numbers and symbols.

While this may seem awkward and confusing, the video on the company's website explaining the system and how it works makes things a lot clearer. The letters will be rearranged around the central dot in order to make the most efficient groupings possible depending on which letters are used most and in what combinations.

One of the company founders Michael Fester admitted it was confusing to look at first but he was comfortable with the system within ten minutes. Fester and his partner Volker Schlue hope to build out the app for the iPhone, Windows and even game controllers.

It will be a while before we see whether this system takes off but it faces an uphill struggle to get people to replace their traditional input systems and switch to something completely different.


November 2, 2010, 3:03 pm

Looks interesting, though potentially slow compared to something like Swype. The key difference between the two is that 8pen has a specific gesture for every letter, whereas Swype has a gesture for every word (admittedly with some duplication).

David Gilbert

November 2, 2010, 3:36 pm

@Aidan I agree it does look like it would take quite a bit of getting used to but if you could get used to it would probably be more flexible than Swype. It could be a case where some people can use it and some people can't.


November 2, 2010, 3:38 pm

I have a blackberry with full qwerty keys & find this works. I tried out a "touchscreen" the other day and ended up with gobble-de-gook. I would be willing to try anything if it solves the problem, although I have to say the physical keyboard works for me. I like the look of the HTC-Z but the price,agh!

Hamish Campbell

November 2, 2010, 4:17 pm

Made the mistake of trying to watch that without the sound on. Jesus, made no sense at all. Better try with audio now.


November 2, 2010, 4:59 pm

Initially reminds me of Ring-writer from SE P910 days. I would say evolution rather than revolution.


November 2, 2010, 5:09 pm

Hey! I think this will be brilliant for those willing to get up the 'learning curve'. Years ago I used to have an 'AGENDA' with the 5-Button Touch Pad and that was phenomenally fast compared with other input devices. I think 8Pen will be a rally fast 'no-brainer-no-look' device once you are used to it, and i reckon the learning curve will be pretty quick. Can't wait for the WP7 version to hit the streets!


November 2, 2010, 6:01 pm

This looks interesting, will have to try it on my sisters Legend.

Speaking of decent typing solutions for android, is a review of the Desire-Z going to be popping up anytime soon.


November 2, 2010, 6:20 pm

I just used the "share via facebook" button, and the preview has a typo in it! How ironic.

Or was it deliberate??? are you playing games with us TR? lol

(Typo is "test" instead of "text" in "8Pen Android App to Change the Way We Type - Software Review - 8Pen is an Android-based app which claims to offer a much more intuitive and natural system to enter test on touchscreen devices."

David Gilbert

November 2, 2010, 6:29 pm

@theDman Well spotted. Of course it was deliberate (we don't make those type of mistakes here at Trusted Reviews) and congratulations on being the first person to spot it ;-)


November 2, 2010, 6:35 pm

You also wrote "cleared" when it should be "clearer" at the end of the first sentence in paragraph 4. :-)

But this looks really interesting. I use swype and while it's better than the standard keyboard I do find it a little frustrating at times. Certainly there needs to be something, touchscreen just isn't as good as a physical keyboard. I am so much slower typing now than I was with my old Sony phone with t9.

I'll try this out, even if it doesn't work for me (or I don't work with it!) I hope it is the start of something that fixes this issue. How long before Apple, MS or Google buy this? I'm still surprised Swype haven't been bought up.

David Gilbert

November 2, 2010, 6:39 pm

Thanks HK I had missed that one. It does seem likely that someone will purchase this if a lot of people use this app and it proves to work as well as the developers claim.


November 2, 2010, 7:06 pm

Yes, looks interesting...But how are you supposed to get used to the system if the letters keep switching places based on how frequently you use them..??

Am I the only one wondering about this?

Mini J

November 2, 2010, 7:07 pm

Am using it now. Its a bit frustrating to begin with, but I can see how it could make things easier with a bit of learning


November 2, 2010, 7:10 pm

OK it's only 99p, but no trial version?

I looked for Swype for my Voda HTC Desire. Seems it's only available if bundled by the operator, is that correct?

Mini J

November 2, 2010, 7:18 pm

@JK yes... because they don't keep changing


November 2, 2010, 7:36 pm

I tried it and it works well but it will take a while to learn to be quick quick with it!


November 2, 2010, 9:06 pm

Wierd. But it works. Cool!


November 2, 2010, 9:11 pm

Looks interesting. But sort of funny with two mathematicians coming up with an input system. I wonder how it will adapt to other languages then English.


November 2, 2010, 9:28 pm

This is the touchscreen equivalent on a chording keyboard, using combinations of gestures rather than combinations of buttons for each letter.

It seems to suffer from the same problems, namely no way of knowing where the letters are and an apparently slow speed meaning there's not that much incentive to learn it.


November 3, 2010, 1:12 am


"... other languages then English". Shouldn't that be "... other languages THAN English"?

(Only questioning it because of the typo-related topic)


November 3, 2010, 1:30 am

This definitely makes sense as it solves a lot of problems associated with character input on a touch-based device. Any system that minimises movement required to complete an action is off to a great start. I'm also pleased to see this appear on Android first (not that I use it), but can't help thinking that we'll all be subjected to one of those annoyingly-good Apple implementations that moves the goal-posts.

Whether it is this system or another similar system that ends up taking the public's fancy, I think the eventual adoption is inevitable. For now I'll conserve effort to see which way the coin falls before I think about re-training my thumb.

(I wonder if you'd have a left-handed version)


November 3, 2010, 4:49 am

@Mini J - My bad...I guess I didn't pay enough attention to the demonstration video the first time I watched it.

It's going to be interesting to see if it'll gain some popularity.

I'm having a little trouble seeing it though...Because if the letters have been arranged in an optimal way for the English language, it might not work as well (or at least not as intuitively) in other languages. And since the letters are "scrambled" instead of being in alphabetical order, I think it'll take much longer for people to learn and remember where each of the letters are.

I can type on a physical number pad without even looking at the buttons (or the screen) thanks to the straight forward layout (2abc, 3def, 4ghi, 5jkl, etc...), even with T9 enabled. Obviously that doesn't work on a touchscreen phone since you don't feel the different keys, but I think THAT is what someone should try to develop. A way of typing on a touchscreen that is so simple, that it could even be done without looking at the keys/screen.

Hopefully we'll see some more attempts of this in the somewhat near future.


November 3, 2010, 1:51 pm

very clever solution!


November 3, 2010, 11:15 pm

It's been mentioned, but Swype has already "changed the way I type" and enabled me to write messages remarkably fast - however the usefulness of Swype was not totally clear to me until I actually tried it, and I expect the same applies with this. Will be watching this with interest...


November 4, 2010, 1:04 pm

I've been trying it since yesterday. Gradually starting to get into a rhythm with it, and some words I can write very quickly indeed already (the ones which have letters all where I know where they are). The major problem I've had actually is the occasional glitch with its autocompletion (which, according to the settings, is turned off... I need to send in a bug report for that) and that my finger is opaque, so sometimes I have to peer around it to look for where the letter I want is.

The latter problem will of course be alleviated as I learn my way around it more effectively.

Rather impressed so far though. Swype was really starting to bug me with its occasional refusal to consider entering the word I thought I'd entered.

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