You might not know it, but there’s an entire ecosystem of iPhone apps & add-ons ouside of Apple’s App Store. Apple ships the iPhone as a closed system. Meaning, you don’t have access to the glorious innerds inside. Thanks to a group of seriously smart folk, you can crack open your precious and dig around that sucker just like another computer. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. You can theoretically screw things up, but a simple restore from official firmware & you’re back, good as new.
The process is called “jailbreaking” and it allows you to run all sorts of killer unauthorized programs. Like Cydia, an alternate app store, where you can find iTypeFastr, the subject of today’s review.
iTypeFastr is a replacement keyboard which says it can get your digits to fly by dedicating more real estate to the letters we theoetically use most. On their site, the devs say
An ‘E’ is 12,7% of all your touches, a ‘Q’ less then 0,1%. That’s 127 times more E’s than Q’s. They do not deserve the same screen real estate.
That’s a pretty neat observation, if you think about it. Especially without the tactile feedback of an actual key or the puny portrait keyboard. In my testing, I found it worked pretty well. I did end up typing with fewer typos. But, I’m not necessarily convinced my target practice improved because of the design of the new keyboard. I think part of the success can be attributed to the fact that I was so disoriented – by the uneven key sizes & the different colors – that I just had to slow down & pay more attention to where my sausage fingers were landing.
I’ve tried some other typing tutor apps in the App Store & my typing tends to improve when I slow down & look at the indivdual keys. Instead of just flying through assuming I’ve got the muscle memory to know where everything is. Like anyone else that lives on a computer, I can fly on a normal keyboard. Even right now, my fingers know where to go without having to look at the keys. But the iPhone doesn’t have a normal keyboard. It’s really my ego that needs massaging.
Back to jailbreaking for a minute. One thing all jailbroken users experience is a drop in performance. The phone just isn’t as responsive when you’ve got all this extra code running inside. This isn’t unique to iPhones or jailbreaking. All software running on any computer has to pull cycles from somewhere and the more you’ve got going, the less there’s gonna be available for everything else. Out of all add-ons, I’ve found that replacement keyboards definitely slow my iPhone down the most. Sure, they’re shiny & different, but the lag just isn’t worth it for me.
I’m also not sure how to activate it. It didn’t start up immediately in any app. I had to hit the international keyboard to call it up, and even that wasn’t a reliable way to get my bigger keys. It also wasn’t consistent in appearing in all apps. All that being said, it looks like the developers are dedicated to upgrading & refining. They’re already up to v1.1 with tons of improvements.
I’m not gonna deny that my typing was definitely improved while using iTypeFastr. But, thanks to the drop in overall perforance, I just can’t recommend it. You won’t find it in the official iTunes App Store, it’s only in the ‘keyboards’ section of Cydia. But, for the first 20 days you get a fully-functioning, free demo, so try it out for yourself and lemme know what you think.