Developer: Hotcafe
Price: $3.99
Version Reviewed: 2.1

iPhone Integration Rating: ★★★½☆
User Interface Rating: ★★★☆☆

Re-use / Replay Value Rating: ★★½☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆

IMG_0324I’ve heard plenty of people gripe about the iPhone’s virtual keyboard. Adjusting to the lack of tactile feedback is tough, and the keyboard can feel cramped at first. Hot Typer is meant to resolve the “cramped keyboard” issue by using six keys instead of a full QWERTY keyboard. There are enough combinations possible to provide a full range of letters, and shortcuts (“sae” becomes “same”, for example) make typing easier still. The intention, of course, is to help the clumsy-fingered among us to type faster on the iPhone. Unfortunately, I found that I was spending a lot of time learning an entirely new typing scheme, and to little effect. You’re probably better off learning the ordinary iPhone keyboard.

It’s worth noting that I actually type, whether I’m on a laptop or an iPod…no glancing at the keyboard for me, at least when my iPod’s in landscape mode. This is largely because I have the QWERTY layout beaten into my head (thank you, keyboarding class). Plus, I’ve had my iPod for over a year now. As a result, I consider my typing skills pretty solid, even on my tiny iPod.

But, regardless, let’s take a look at how Hot Typer works. As I said, all typing is done using six keys, which are arranged into three columns with two rows each. The middle column is slightly raised. Tapping a single key will cue a letter, but there’s more to it than that. For example, “e” is located on the top-left key…but if you tap the “e” and “t” keys simultaneously, an “r” appears. There are a dizzying number of combinations to remember, and it takes a lot of practice to get them all.

IMG_0326An included “game” is intended to teach you to type, but it’s still a frustrating process that must often be accomplished by brute-force memorization. New letters are introduced slowly. After each new batch, the game has you hit the right combinations when prompted, starting with single letters and moving up to a handful of complete words. A 90% accuracy mark is needed to progress to the next stage. Unfortunately, It doesn’t help that typing with six keys is just plain awkward. “U” gave me a particular amount of trouble. The game recommends using three fingers to type, one for each column, but I found that layout to be far too rigid for practical use. And then I couldn’t find certain functions, such as how to delete letters. I certainly couldn’t figure out a way to use more complex symbols.

Once you’ve mastered the typing scheme, you can actually use it. In the normal mode, you simply type into a blank field using the methods you learned in the lessons. From there you can either copy the text to the clipboard or send it in an email. The idea is to use this “faster” scheme while typing long blocks of text. There’s also a To-Do list included, though for reasons I can’t fathom…I prefer to use a dedicated app for something like that.

There’s a reason why the QWERTY keyboard is so widely used: we all know it, and it works. Hot Typer tries to introduce a new typing scheme, and while it’s certainly innovative, it’s just not worth investing the time to learn to type quickly. The interface is somewhat clunky, too, and basic things (like deleting letters!) are pointlessly frustrating.

It’s still an interesting concept, and it did intrigue me. But ultimately, Hot Typer is a novelty app with a lot of originality and very little functionality.

Posted in: iPhone Apps and Games, Productivity, Reviews

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