Version 1.8

 


A Summary of ShapeWriter iPhone App Store User Reviews

Jan 18, 2009

Shumin Zhai & Per Ola Kristensson

 

 

Executive Summary

 

The deployment of ShapeWriter on the iPhone was a large scale experiment. Hundreds of user reviews such as this one have been written in iPhone’s App Store in the first four months since ShapeWriter’s launch, giving a strong indication of the promise of ShapeWriter:

"revolutionized typing" is the understatement of the year. This technology should be part of every keyboard on all touchscreens. Someone nominate these software developers for a Nobel. No Joke. Thank you so much for this software... –brian

This report analyzes and summarizes these reviews.  The main findings and lessons learned are the following:

·          Over 80% of these reviews were completely positive and often enthusiastic.

·          Less than 6% of reviews were completely negative.

·          Being a novel technology, over 5% ShapeWriter’s reviews indicated a misunderstanding of the  purpose of the software, some of its features, or the basic concept of shape writing altogether.

·          There are individual differences in their perception of ShapeWriter’s ease, speed, and accuracy. Some could use ShapeWriter well within minutes while others took some time to get used to this novel way of writing text.

·          As new software on a new platform both still in refinement, some of ShapeWriter’s reviews (10%) reported and complained about major (crash) or minor bugs and deficiencies particularly in early versions.

·          Additional features such as supporting multiple languages and landscape mode were frequently requested.

·          Many users explicitly ask ShapeWriter to reach more applications (e.g. SMS) or be integrated with the iPhone OS.


Overall, the result of the experiment is overwhelmingly positive, which should give ShapeWriter Inc and the mobile industry great confidence in further developing and integrating this technology on every touch screen device.


Introduction


ShapeWriter on the iPhone was the first large scale deployment in the history (http://www.shapewriter.com/history.html) of “gesture on touch screen keyboard” text input. Although the promise of this technology has been demonstrated in much published academic research (http://www.almaden.ibm.com/u/zhai/shapewriter-pubs.htm), a large scale “experiment in the wild” is both necessary and more powerful. 

The main expected advantages of shape writing are:

·          Easy to begin because tracing letters is a visually guided process

·          Efficient – one word per stroke, which means 4-5 folds of motor efficiency increase over letter-based longhand writing

·          Error tolerant because of the underlining dictionary-based statistical pattern recognition

·          Gradual progression from ease to proficiency. Over time the shapes of common words or common word fragments will be memorized by the user so the shape writing process shifts from visually-guided tracing to faster recall-driven gesturing.

The iPhone provided a timely platform for such a test. The advantages of the iPhone as a platform for testing ShapeWriter are:

§          High quality touch sensor

§          Relatively large touch screen size

§          A large and growing potential user base

§          The iTunes App Store embedded in every iPhone – a modern infrastructure for software distribution and user feedback collection

 

The disadvantages of the iPhone as a platform for testing ShapeWriter are:

·          The capacitive sensor on the iPhone does not allow a pointed stylus as an option. It can only be operated with a finger tip, which obscures the key underneath, making shape writing a less certain process. Our informal testing showed that most users could overcome this uncertainty in a relatively short period of time (from minutes to a couple hours of use). Once they built confidence and familiarity with the keyboard, the user would stop worrying about whether the letter under the finger was the right letter. However whether such observation is true to the larger user population remains a question. 

·          iPhone’s SDK does not allow a third party system-wide input method, nor does it allow a third party application to communicate with other applications directly. This forced ShapeWriter Inc to develop a “WritingPad” application, not a general input method. There is a way to indirectly communicate with the email client on the iPhone, which made ShapeWriter more useful.

Major design trade-offs

The biggest trade-off is between a general input method and a standalone application. ShapeWriter Inc could have implemented a system-wide general input method by using the unofficial iPhone SDK. However that approach was no longer viable once the iTunes App Store opened.  One advantage of developing ShapeWriter as a WritingPad application is the total control over the entire application’s function and user interface. For example editing and correction could be integrated with ShapeWriter’s recognition results.  ShapeWriter always returns a ranked list of words that match the user’s stroke, with the top match entered into the text editor.  The user can immediately correct the entered word from the candidate list (alternative choices above the keyboard, see Fig. 1). More importantly, the user is also able to edit and correct previously written words after the user has finished a sentence or a paragraph

 

                

Figure 1. (Right) ShapeWriter gives alternative second best choices after each stroke in a candidate selection list (AUI).  (Left) Furthermore, the user can also go back and edit previously written words based on the same recognition list. Here the user tapped  on “word” (where the caret is at), and selected “words”  from the candidate list. Upon lifting his finger from the AUI, “word” in the sentence will change to “words”.

Many other conscious trade-off decisions were made on the product design. Most decisions leaned towards the conventional. For example the default keyboard was Qwerty, not the optimized ATOMIK. A few decisions leaned toward the innovative. For example the Shift, Caps, and Ctrl keys were eliminated.  In their place are an innovative Case key and a novel Cmd key. Case is a “reverse Polish operator” that changes the case of the word or letter entered post hoc, giving the user much more flexibility. For example if the user shape write the word iPhone, the default output will be iPhone. Pressing Case key once changes it to iphone, twice to IPHONE, thrice to Iphone, and fourth time back to iPhone. Cmd enables command strokes. For example the stroke Cmd-c-o-p-y sends a copy command to selected text

Another important decision was made on the recognizer speed.  It is critical to have real time recognition, which means the recognition latency needs to be imperceptible to the user (less than 50 ms). The user should be able to see the output immediately after lifting the finger from the screen. A recognizer already written that has 30 ms latency on a 200 MHz ARM processor was used (The iPhone uses a 620 MHz ARM processor). This recognizer was aggressively optimized for speed at some cost of reduced level of error tolerance. In future releases the recognizer speed can be relaxed (but is still real time) in exchange of greater error tolerance.

ShapeWriter aimed to be one of the first applications available on the App Store once it opened. This meant, as with most product development, insufficient amount of time to achieve the number of features desired and complete software robustness.  For example, many of the advanced ShapeWriter functions, such as automatic misspelling correction, concatenation of word fragments into a larger word (e.g. compute+ing = computing), command strokes, training game, stroke morphing (from what is drawn to the ideal template) were not included in the initial WritingPad release (some are still not today). In the rush towards the deadline, some critical features, such as automatic save, were also missing from the initial release.

ShapeWriter WritingPad 1.0.0 as a free application was submitted to Apple on July 7, 2008 just before Apple’s deadline to be included in its App Store launch. The submission was reviewed and approved by Apple and became available on July 14, 2008. Since then, 7 more releases have made launched: WritingPad 1.0.2, 1.0.3, 1.0.4, 1.0.5, 1.0.6, ShapeWriter Free 1.0.7 and Ad-supported ShapeWriter free 2.0.0 and ShapeWriter Pro 2.0.0 ($9.99).  

ShapeWriter WritingPad quickly gained popularity and reached a download rate of over 30,000 copies per day in August (and was top 6 in the App Store). Some of the early download records (from July to September 2008) unfortunately were not regularly saved.  An incomplete count shows that at least  1,163,636 copies of ShapeWriter / WritingPad have been downloaded from the iPhone App Store to date when this report is written.

User Review Analysis

Although an iPhone developer does not have access to the end users contact information, making it difficult to survey end users directly, the App Store review and rating mechanism offers a great channel of feedback (Figure 2, right). Within 24 hours of the initial launch of WritingPad, there were 50 reviews written about ShapeWriter WritingPad. At the time this analysis began (five months later) 556 reviews had been written for Versions 1.0.0 through 1.0.7, serving as very valuable data for evaluating both the basic concept of shape writing and the overall design of the WritingPad software. Many users also took the trouble to write to iPhone@shapewriter.com and other ShapeWriter Inc email addresses (info, contact), giving further information about their experience. ShapeWriter on the iPhone was also reviewed by many bloggers and the media (such as Wired) and named one of the Top 11 iPhone must-have apps by Time.com (Figure 2).

    

Figure 2. ShapeWriter WritingPad was named one of the top 11 iPhone must-have apps by Time (left). iTunes App Store user reviews serve as an valuable tool of evaluations (right)

The 556 reviews for Version 1.0.0 through 1.0.7 were tagged and tallied in a spreadsheet with “Completely Positive”, “Completely Negative”, “Neutral, no indication or ambivalent” , “More Features Wanted” (such as landscape keyboard), “More Application and Integration Wanted” (such as SMS), and “Bugs and Deficiencies”. Note the first three tags were mutually exclusive, but the rest are not. The results are summarized as follows.

1. Most users are very positive

454 (81.6%) reviews were "Completely Positive". Many users could not contain their excitement. Some examples (underscores added to highlight key points) are included below.

Game changing app by jhudge05
Typing on the iPhone used to tedious and frustrating for me, but now that I use WritingPad I am actually writing faster on the iPhone than I was on my Blackberry.

Pretty High WOW factor by Jim in the Gorge
Pretty darn Amazing, Apple should BUY these guys and have it as the DEFAULT for the Apple Keyboard.

Holy $41t by Corso123 
"revolutionized typing" is the understatement of the year. This technology should be part of every keyboard on all touchscreens. Someone nominate these software developers for a Nobel. No Joke. Thank you so much for this software... –brian

Speechless by Dezboi 
Wow, wow, wow. I initially was skeptical, but I am totally and completely impressed with the product. Good interface, easy to use. Wow!

Very cool by JPT006 
Worth every dime! Oh, wait it was free. Great app...and yes I agree with everyone else...this technology is a must for every application. Wish I could have used it to type this.

So good I already miss it.  by StingersSwarm 
This is the first time I have actally liked an app so much that I felt compelled to submit a review. After maybe a minute and a half using this app I already miss it in writing this review. This Is so good I really wish I could cut and paste bow because I wouldn't type with anything else. I hope that apple might consider rolling this function into future software updates for the iPhone so I can shape write in any situation.

Awesome application!! by TheCypher 
Apple should really license this technology. Increases typing speed by at least 4 times if not more. Truly amazing. Try it to believe it! I wish it worked with SMS. That would have been the icing on the cake. I hope they add that capability it in at some point.

Best idea ever!! by BMoney$$$ 
The title speaks for it's self. Apple needs this as an update optional for all areas!

Totaly awesome by Guy in the dark 
Apple should make this keyboard one that u can turn on like the other language keyboards I can really see this turning the tide in the touch screen vs. Plastic keyboard debate.

2. A small number of users are completely negative

33 (5.9%) reviews, on the other hand, were “Complete negative”. Examples:

Lame by Joerj11
Really hard to use. iPhone keyboard is much better. Don't waist your time.

Forget It! by DART  
Don't waste your time!!!!

Forget by Ouch  
Forget this one! Apple touch screen works better.

why doesnt it work with other stuff? by redtom82 
i use my notes and SMS a lot and this application doesnt work with any of those. you have to use a seperate application to write stuff in. totally worthless.

In addition to the 81.6% “completely positive” and 5.9% “completely negative”, the rest (12.5%)  were “somewhat positive, neutral, ambivalent or no indication”,

3. Misunderstanding

Communicating features and capabilities to the user is a general challenge to software products, particularly novel software.  Despite the introductory text both in the App Store and in the embedded instruction notes, there were 30 (5.4 %) reviews that indicated some misunderstanding of ShapeWriter. The most common misunderstanding was that ”WritingPad” was another note pad that the iPhone native applications already include, not knowing it was in fact an application demonstrating a novel input method.  Examples:

Nothing special but ok by keirstinc
I used this as a secondary note app. It doesn't offer a great deal more that is useful over the notepad, but that worked fine for me. Only problem is with the last update, I lost ALL of my notes. So, this app is worthless to me now (I have removed it) and I have now lost all the information that was in it.

okay... by F4Uforever 
I don't know why someone would put a second notepad on their iPhone or iPod Touch. Just use the one Apple provided.

Um..... by Ferrari Adict
Isn't this the same app as note which the iPhone already comes with the new update???

Omg, I can't believe everybody likes it!  by TwirlerChick 
This is a downgrade of notes.

Some users misunderstood how shape writing really works:

Am I missing something? by GeorgeW6 
You have to somehow drag your finger over each letter in a word in correct order and not hit any other letters on the keypad. How the 5 ***** reviewers do that should be put on video. Is it that I am L handed a big hands? I will repent, if you prove this thing works.

Obviously it is not possible to reach all letters in a word without hitting any other letters.  However that is not what ShapeWriter requires.

The following user obviously did not understand the “Case” key design:

Pretty good by dardenlinux 
Great idea, and, unlike some great ideas, it actually works! I gave it just 4 stars because there is no shift key making it VERY hard to add a capitalized name to the word library. I agree that Apple should buy this or work with these people to make this a typing option in the iPhone/iPod touch. Just put a SHIFT key in!

Even some of the features conforming to the iPhone standard were not understood by many users. For example from version 1.0.0 on one could slide a finger laterally on an entry in the note list page to bring out a Delete button. However many users, including some ShapeWriter team members, did not know such a function existed until they were explicitly told.

4. Bugs and deficiencies

55 (10%) reviews reported or complained about bugs and deficiencies in the WritingPad implementation, particularly in early versions (up to 1.0.4). They were not always forgiving in their comments and ratings.  The most frequent bugs and deficiencies cited were: the handling of apostrophe, an upgrade glitch that lost users’ previous notes (which appeared to be an App Store updater bug), slow start-up, slow scrolling, and of course software crash bugs in the early versions (1.0.0 to 1.0.3). Many of these comments helped ShapeWriter Inc to improve the code quality in later updates. Examples of bug and deficiency complaints are:

Absolutely incredible by Lertulo
Spend 3 minutes with this and you'll hate ever using the built-in keyboard again. I'm with the other poster below who said this thing should be licensed by apple. On the negative side, the app's display is very slow to scroll, and the app is unresponsive for several seconds after loading. Minor problems; I'm definitely willing to pay for an update.

Awful upgrade by Redbeard20 
The new upgrade deleted all of my old notes!

Doesn't it crash too often? by Neesee 
Deleted! It's not on my phone anymore. I liked it first though.

5. Noticeable individual differences

There is a great deal of differences between individual users in their speed of learning and in their perception of its performance (accuracy, which was not as good as it could be due to the overly aggressive pursuit of recognition speed in the software).

Some found shape writing very easy, accurate or fast. For example:

This is the future! by TakeZer0.com
Apple needs to add this as an option for typing normally! It's so amazingly easy to use, I can type around 40 or 50 wpm with it! very fast:

Just got it and was pretty blown away. by Maloy 
It makes writing a breeze.

This reviewer estimates a 75% time saving:    

Outstanding by Doctor JB
An absolulety outstanding application...money very well spent...has cut the time it takes to write email for example by nearly 75% over finger typing...buy it!

Some reviewers estimate a 3X or more speed increase:   

I love this software!!! by AppChallenged 
After only five minutes using this application, I can compose notes & emails at least 3x faster than the 2-finger approach. With very little practice, this approach to writing will get even faster. It is a very smart program and leaves room for being less than perfect, technique-wise. The fact that you can compose without having to constantly tap the space bar is a great feature.

I only gave 5 stars because there wasn't 10 by leenpaula
 It is the best AP I have ever used ! I can write 10 times fastet already!!

This user thinks he/she can enter words almost as fast as a speaker can say them:

Finally, a text entry I can use!! Wish it was default for all iphone text entry... by jcdoyleonline
This is an incredible idea. I have been so impressed with both the ease of use and user interface. I just wish somehow Apple and/or the developer could make this method of text entry an option for anytime keyboard entry is needed, without switching applications. This is hands down way better than the hunt and peck method, with the tiny keyboard buttons. I'm using this program for any emails now I send out that are long, for notes, including lecture notes (no more paper needed!) since I can enter words almost as fast as a speaker can say them. GREAT program!

Some users particularly commented on the accuracy of ShapeWriter:

Freaking amazingly genius by JBROS ROCK THE WORLD!!!
This the most amazing application I've seen. It's super accurate and super easy to use and I'm still in awe of how genius it is.

Impressive!!! by Dat Cool Chica
I really gave it hard combinations and it was on target 90% of the time and if not the word list gave it to you... It should be standard...

My favorite ap by devanyl7 
I'm amazed at how well this works even when I'm only haphazardly guessing at where the letters are -- it's like it reads my mind! Load time increased with the last update, but I'm hoping that will be fixed soon.

Some users particularly commented on how fast they picked up shape writing:

Awesome program - what a feature shape writing is! by Ljg
Excellent way to type on an iTouch (iPhone). The one thing I'd like to see in the next iteration is landscape mode for a bit larger keyboard.I hope Apple sees this shape writing technology and considers incorporating it into these wonderful little companions. It is about four or five times faster to type this way...and that's after only 10 minutes messing with it. I bet after an hour, it will be second nature, and all the other programs which require manual input a letter-at-a-time will seem out of date.Thanks for this great utility!

Absolutely incredible by Lertulo 
Spend 3 minutes with this and you'll hate ever using the built-in keyboard again. I'm with the other poster below who said this thing should be licensed by apple. On the negative side, the app's display is very slow to scroll, and the app is unresponsive for several seconds after loading. Minor problems; I'm definitely willing to pay for an update.

In contrast, others seemed to have difficulty or needed more time to master it.

Download now! It's great! by Jillian f 
Awesome to use. Takes getting used to but it's so much fun and you can write really fast!

Really Great by George Jenkins 
I will "type" all email on my iphone with this app from now on. After about thirty minutes, you can write very quickly with few wrong guesses. Any chance for SMS support?

Better Than Notes by htrejo 
Much has already been said. It took me a little bit of time to get used to it, but now that I am, I wished this was an optional way of writing system wide.

Wow by TARDISfan 
This is great. It takes some getting used to, but once you do, I'll never want to go back to this typing on the keyboard.

Very clever by Shalmanese 
This is an amazing interface if you're willing to put some time into learning it. After about 3 hours, your actions start becoming completely natural. Only wish it could replace the default keyboard in more situations. Writing this review was a major pain after experiencing writing pad!

Great idea by Cowcowcowcowcow 
It is a great concept, but I found it a little hard to use some times. It's either hard to use the writingpad, or I'm just no good at it.

 

One critical challenge to some of the users is the “fat finger” problem because their fingers obscure the keyboard. Some users at their early learning stage worry about whether the letter being obscured by the finger is the right letter. The problem can be overcome once the user gains confidence.  

One of the best apps by j paw
Just typing at this keyboard compared with the Notes keyboard is much better. Making words by dragging your finger across letters gets faster for me every minute I use it. I can see how someone with fatter fingers might have a harder time at first using this but I believe that the effort to master this is worth the time. It isn't perfect yet but I would be willing to pay a good price for it to kept this developer working on it. I think Apple should hire this developer and replace their Notes app with this one!

Some users might also had problem with incorrect spelling. An automatic misspelling correction function was released in Version 1.0.7 and it should address some of the sloppy spellers’ problem.

Very impressive! by McQ14 
It took me a few days of use to get used to it but it works great. I'm still faster with the default iPhone keyboard, but this is amazing app. It amazes me when it figures out words. My only problem is that I never took a real typing of keyboard class and have to see the keyboard to type anything, so I make a lot of mistakes. But I do that with all keyboards, so it's a personal issue! Great app!

On the other hand, some “fat finger” users actually find ShapeWriter easier to use:

Huge improvement over Iphone keypad by loanflyer
I have "fat finger symdrome" and cannot type on the Iphone. Thank goodness for this program! Now, I can actually write emails!

Love this App- Its a real timesaver! by VanTreeck
Works great for people with large fingers like myself. Very liquid and intuitive. Brilliant Application

 

6. Many users want ShapeWriter to reach more applications on the iPhone

182 (32.7%) reviews explicitly asked ShapeWriter to be a default input method, or at least to also work with more applications such as SMS. Some understand that this is a limitation set by the current iPhone SDK but others are not aware of it. Examples:

If only touch always worked this way. by Kennymccune 
Excellent and time saving. If I could use this style of typing in other apps my life would be bliss.

make this a system entry option by /guy
i'd love to have this input method as an option for the entire system. i can go 10 times as fast in this application as i can on the standard keyboard.great job folks!/guy

Expand to SMS by Vgooje
Revolutionized typing!

Nice by Jlwhets
This is nice, but I would like the option to be able to post to a blog in addition to being able to email what is written. Good stuff, though.

Love it by Laishere 
Great for notes&email. I'd have 5 stars if I could use for Texting

Fast and furious note taking by spedygnzls 
Unbelievable technology and implementation! I thought I could tap fast on the iPhone's keyboard, but this is SO much easier and faster once you get used to the process. Long words can be a hit or miss. The app shines in comparison to tapping (allowed as well) when trying to take quick notes on the fly. It would be great if it had the option of getting sound feedback on the times you do need to tap out the letter/words. I agree with others, Apple should definitely license this technology and integrate it into the iPhone OS. Fantastic app! It was one of the first one's I downloaded and have constantly use it.

Great many reviews suggest, wish, or plead with Apple to incorporate ShapeWriter into the iPhone:

Incredible! by Sfvenn 
This app is amazing. I wish I could type this review with it instead of the apple default keyboard. It's just so much fun to use. Steve, license it or buy them outright. A real winner. Please integrate into other apps until copy paste arrives or apple buys you!

Apple, buy this technology by JERKS-R 
This app puts the regular iPhone keypad to shame. And even better, with practice it'll probably be faster than using a physical keypad. If Apple added this functionality to everything on the iPhone, Blackberry/TREO users would start being upset that they COULDN'T input text using a touchscreen. Bravo, ShapeWriter.

 

7. Some users want more features

74 (13.3%) users explicitly asked for more features to be implemented, including folder, formatting, copy and paste, landscape mode, synchronizing text files with the web, search, and other languages.   Examples:

Greate by Andy.smir
Is's an exlellent idea! More languages please))) 4 example: Russian

Great apps, just a few ideas for the next release by Jocosite
I second all the reviews mentioned below. It works suprisingly well.Just a few things (in priority order) to make it a 5-star app:1. Support multi language. Adding French for me would be great. I'm sure many folks out there could use Spanish, Italian or German.2. Can you fit the apostrophe sign on the keyboard. It's a real pain right now to type "I'm", "let's", etc... Maybe in replacement of the command button which I never used.3. Support landscape mode as mentioned by others below. I rank it as #3 because for me, a small keyboard enables me to go fast. The app is forgiving enough .But all in all, a MUST-HAVE app! Thanks to the developer!

Awesome! by LupeValenz 
They need to make this the default input. I love it, it works well and very easy to slide than to poke around. One feature I like to see in writing pad, a search feature. I plan to use this as my journal and would like to look up certain events as it begins to fill up.

8. Few reviews commented on UI design

There were very few comments on the design details such as the keyboard decisions. Perhaps this is a good sign since user interfaces tend to get noticed only when they are poor. Some did comment:

awesome! by kimhatesyouu
i wish this was on texting. so easy to use. and the keyboard is easy on the eyes.

Genius by Twistfunk 
Surprisingly accurate, fast, and fun-- I would love to use this for texting and web browsing, but notes and email are dramatically improved using WritingPad instead of the proprietary iPhone keyboard. I love how WritingPad allows you to go back and choose a different word from the toolbar if it messes up, and you can add words to the dictionary with a visual confirmation. Try it out!

 

 9. Affection

Good products need to evoke positive emotions from the user. This is quite evident in many review’s affectionate responses to ShapeWriter, using words like love, omg, fun, great, rocks, awesome, amazing, exciting, pleasant, cool, addictive, stunning,  astounding, fantastic, etc.

Love it! by Starbellyfaith 
I don't even have enough patience to type a full review with this regular keyboard. So I'll just say this: I wish to God I could use this for ALL my iPhone typing. Pure genius. I've shown it off to everyone. I can finally write a decent length email from my iPhone without wanting to kill myself. Thank you so much!

Brilliant! by Mikmeister 
This app rocks! Try it and you'll see how fast it is! Only wish it had a landscape keypad.

.... by BamaFan22 
Coolest. Thing. Ever.

An intensely amazing idea by Sophaloph16        
This brings "intuitive" typing to the iPhone. Amazing.

Exciting by heye 
the author must be a genius to invent this never imagine to input words in this way

Makes you want to donate it's that good by architek1 
I am pleasantly surprised at the accuracy that this application displays. Quite unbelievable. As many others suggested this should replace notepad and possibly be a default entry system for the iPhone. It's a How come Apple didn't think of this kinda app. Very nice!

iPhone junkie by Chubaccu 
This program is so fun it's hard to put down. Make sure that you know the keyboard to really get the most out of this cool app.

Addictive by Us4U2C 
I've been finding excuses to use it because I can't get over it! Everyone I show is impressed and finds it easy to use. Making random shapes to see the word you make is fun too ;-) I hope this eventually crosses over for use in all my applications.

Stunning! by AtomicMrDNA 
I love this app! I use it to jot down notes and it's much faster than manually "clicking" each letter of each word (even with the auto complete). I also love the look of the type and the overall design! Great app!

OMG! This is fracking cool! by ZenJim 
Works great. Love it.

Absolutely astounding... by JustJaded 
I'd just like to thank everyone who was involved in making this app because a like to say this is hands down by far the most effective application out for the iPhone yet IF apple would somehow implement it into the iPhone os as a default keyboard immidiatly!

Great application by Cle77450 
This is a fantastic app. I was able to very quickly create messages and send them as emails about there times faster than using the iPhone's standard keyboard. I was skeptical at the concept at first but I am now very impressed: it works and works very well. This must be one of the best app in the store so far. And it is free! Sugesstion: A cut & paste feature to cut the text in this note pad and paste it in other applications would be great!

 

Cross-checks and Corroborations

One could suspect that the overwhelming positive reviews were based on the fact that ShapeWriter/WritingPad 1.0.0 – 1.0.7 were completely free.  ShapeWriter Pro, charged at $9.99, provided a comparison. ShapeWriter Pro 2.0 had more features, such as a landscape option, copy and paste (within the application), and customizable color and font.  At the time of this analysis, the Pro version had only been available for less than two weeks so there were only a small number of reviews. However they repeat the same pattern as the reviews for the previous versions of ShapeWriter, but even more positive. Here is the complete set:

A keeper by Wax is good 
This should be the default writing method in all iPhone apps. Get this app!

Should be part of the OS. by Rsgmoose 
Title says it all. Love the orientation compared to the free version.

Great app by susan404 
Please add "market felt" to fonts and a light yellow background like a legal pad. Please consider changing your background colors to lighter colors..like pastel post-its. Thanks!

Holy Crap! This is good! by Testbs 
I also tried the free version with a healthy amount of skepticism. Well no more. Apple needs to license this solution and build it into the operating system for version 2.3. This app goes a long way to removing the need for a physical keyboard and also takes another bite out of RIM's one remaining differentiator - the keyboard.

The Future of Touchscreen Text Input by o dub 
Saw this on Gizmodo and had to try the free version. After trying that, had to buy the full version. This application will astonish you with it's speed and accuracy - being able to simply slide your fingers along the keyboard to type is intuitive and creative. If you use email frequently, or are looking to type notes faster, 10 bucks is not much to pay to experience the system that will be on all touchscreen phones in a few years time. Get the free version to see how incredible it is, then buy it if you want a few more options. This was thought up by the same man who created T9Word, and he should take a bow; this is the future of mobile text input.

I love it! Just one suggestion by Zanmi 
After practicing with ShapeWriterFree, I too, like others, purchased the ShapeWriter Pro. It's true, you can reply to an email through this program, cut and paste, etc. It takes a couple of steps, but it's much easier than pecking the keyboard and messing up because you accidentally touched 2 letters at the same time. One suggestion... I would like to be able to add color to my typed characters (i.e., bold, red lettering for some words that are important, yellow highlights).

I love this app! by RevSue 
I tried out the free version and immediately came back to purchase the full app. I have arthritis in my fingers...and while I keyboard without pain I have trouble with the tiny iPhone keys. This program, with landscape mode, is a dream. I can hold the phone with one hand and slide text with the other---accurately! Should be a "must have" for accessability reasons. Now if we can just get this to work with SMS I'd give it TEN stars. I'd figure out a way.

Fantastic luv the landscape mode! by WouldUdoit 
I luv the new landscape mode. I was hopin u would do that. The bigger keys help. ALso I'm glad you hide the status bar when in landscape. It baffles me when text entry apps don't.

 

Another channel of corroboration is the hundreds of emails written to ShapeWriter Inc (iphone@shapewriter.com and info@shapewriter.com). They are even more positive and more elaborate. See Appendix 2 for two examples.

Conclusions

Despite almost a decade of research and development work, and the praises in the news media since 2003,  it was not clear how well ShapeWriter would do on the iPhone platform due to the restrictions of its SDK and the finger-operated capacitive touch screen. This summary shows that the success of ShapeWriter’s experiment on the iPhone has far exceeded the expectation. Over 80% of the reviews were completely positive and enthusiastic despite the restrictions. Less than 6% of reviews were completely negative or “don’t get it”.  As a novel technology some of its reviews clearly misunderstood what the software does.  As some users pointed out, for those who don’t like or don’t get shape writing, they can always use ShapeWriter as a conventional tapping keyboard – not even a switch is required.

There is clearly a wide range of individual differences in users’ perception of the ease, speed, and accuracy of ShapeWriter.  Most seem to have very little difficulty in learning it (minutes). A few users seem to need longer time (30 minutes or even a few days) to “get used to” shape writing.  As new software on a new platform both still in refinement, some of the reviews (10%) also reported major (crash) or minor bugs and deficiencies, particularly in early versions of ShapeWriter on the iPhone. These reviews have helped ShapeWriter designers and engineers to refine and improve the software. A large number of the reviews ask for additional features and plead with Apple to integrate ShapeWriter into the iPhone OS.  In conclusion, this large scale experiment should give ShapeWriter Inc and the mobile industry great confidence in ShapeWriter being “one of the best things ever to happen to mobile computing” (See appendix).

 

Appendix 1. The complete set of user reviews

Available in iTunes or iPhone App Store (search “ShapeWriter” or click this link). They are also mirrored on the web at:

http://www.shapewriter.com/reviews.html

Appendix 2. Sample email letters to ShapeWriter Inc

Example 1

Date: Sun, Oct 12, 2008 at 3:57 PM
Subject: Full-sized shapewriting?
To: info@shapewriter.com

Hi

I love using WritingPad.  Do you ever think you will create products for full-sized PCs?  I can just imagine running my fingertips over a lovely smooth glass plate plugged into a USB port, or even better, wireless.

I'm a writer and a lot of my material is about engaging reader emotion.  I think full-sized shapewriting would really suit this, because it's a much more sensual and natural process than typing.  It might not be as fast as the flying fingers, but creative writing isn't usually about the speed anyway.

Right now our family iMac setup looks pretty sweet, with a tiny wireless keyboard and wireless mouse.  Imagine how much better, though, if that could be replaced by a rectangle of obsidian.

So, what do you say?

For now, I love what you've done.  I can hardly believe that the most elegant breakthrough in computing I have ever experienced is sitting in the App Store as a free download.  Thank you so much,

George

 

Example 2        

Date: Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 4:24 AM
Subject: A feature request from a fanatic fan

To: "iPhone@shapewriter.com" <iPhone@shapewriter.com>


Hello,
First let me say that if Apple does't license your technology for all
the apps on the iPod, they are missing out on one of the best things
ever to happen to mobile computing
.  I actually feel resentful having
to leave the glorious ShapeWriter interface to write this email.  I
could have been done in at least half the time.  Feel free to pass
this along to Apple.

Some things change our lives forever, like the microwave, cell phone,
and personal computer.  Before ShapeWriter, my life was tracked on 3x5
notebook cards, spiral notebooks, bank withdrawl envelopes and
whatever else I could find. I was often misplacing vital notes and
info. With ShapeWriter, everything is in one place, easy to enter, to
email, and most importantly, to find and make use of. This iPod Touch
and ShapeWriter have transformed my life in under a week. Now instead
of wasting time searching for notes, instructions and phone numbers, I
concentrate on running my company. Briliant.

The only problem is I use ShapeWriter for everything. Grocery lists,
staff instructions, brainstorming, client notes, everything.

Now I have fifty or sixty pages, and I add more all the time. Could
you please consider adding a folders option?  How brilliant would it
be to have a "home page" of folders such as client calls, grocery
lists, to do lists, project notes, staff instructions and even just
one for random ideas. If you could add nameable folders, nothing out
there could even come close, and my life would be even better
organized.

By the way, ShapeWriter is the entire reason I bought the iPod.
Without your app, typing is just too tedious and slow for real world
life and business use. Thanks again for a life changing application.

Your Friend in the Business,
Robert,

 

 

Appendix 3.  ShapeWriter on the iPhone honors and recognitions

There have been many recognitions of ShapeWriter on the iPhone. Here are a few examples:

" I am completely astounded by this app. This is so fast and fun and accurate way of writing and I am just on the beginning of the learning curve. This is crazy." - ZDNet

" 14 must-have iPhone apps " - Examiner.com

" The mobile future of the keyboard " - New Scientist

" Top 10 mobile applications " - 2009 Razorfish Digital Outlook

" Top 10 iPhone Apps for Girls " - TotallyHer.com

" Top 11 iPhone Applications " - Time.com

 “ Best iPhone Apps: Office and Personal Productivity” - PC World


“ Best iPhone apps: Office and personal productivity” - InfoWorld

“ Top 16 iTouch Applications” - Adverturs in Daily Living

“ Top 10 Mobile Applications to Watch” 2009 Razorfish Digital Outlook Report