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Swype Compelling, but Will Need to Help Users Overcome Learning Curve

by Chris Schreiner | Mar 25, 2010

Samsung is touting the new Swype technology on its mobile devices, and even went so far as to create an advert showing a Swype intern breaking the Guinness World Record for texting. While perusing the exhibits at CTIA 2010 in Las Vegas, I made it a point to drop by the Samsung exhibit to try it out for myself.With no instruction whatsoever (which will be the case for most users), I started using Swype. I did not find it immediately intuitive, and wasn’t sure how to handle entering the same letter consecutively. I don’t have much patience for things that don’t work right away, so I put it down and left with a negative impression of the technology. Later, I was persuaded to give it a second chance, and received a very short demonstration with a few key tips. Then, I started swiping (or Swyping). Of course I had to challenge the technology in front of those giving me the demo, so I went as quickly as I could to enter an extremely long message using uncommon words without even looking to check for accuracy. To my amazement, it was 100% accurate, and I had the impression that in no way would I have been able to type that quickly (or at least that quickly while being accurate) on a typical QWERTY keyboard, and wondered if I could somehow get it for my own device. The key for adoption for Swype will be this learning curve, and what the developers of Swype do in order to help users overcome it. Consumers will not tolerate something that at first shot provides a poorer experience to what they are accustomed, which for many is what will happen with Swype. Those consumers will abandon it, and won’t be as lucky as I was to have Swype experts show them the way. I remembered the first iPhone commercials and how some of the less intuitive touch gestures like pinch-to-zoom were demonstrated up front, and thought that Swype and its partners will need to learn those lessons to help it live up to its early online buzz. - Chris Schreiner

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