I was reluctant to give 8pen a go, not because I could see there would be a significant learning curve, but because I resent paying for an app that I really am just wanting to try out. I am curious by nature, and I mostly agree that adapting what we have used for years to fit our new devices is a little on the side of craziness. However, they sadly don't do a limited trial, so I spent the ~$NZ 2.04 and installed the app. (By this stage I'd already watched the introductory video so knew what I was getting myself in for).
So, just to briefly give you the gist of 8pen without sending you off to their website to find out more - the characters are laid out in an X shape, with a central round area as below:
An example: to input the letter r
- start with your finger in the inner circle,
- drag out to the right hand quandrant,
- then in the direction that the r is in (so anticlockwise), drag your finger through 2 quadrants (ending in the left hand quadrant between blue & green)
- and finally return to the central circle.
To input a word, you simply string together a whole bunch of letters without raising your finger. If you raise your finger after inputting a letter, a space is implied.
So, I expect that's probably as clear as mud - as I said, it sounds really complicated in words.
What did I think of it after using it? Well, I like the concept, I think the implementation is pretty good - easy to capitalise, add special characters, insert smileys and punctuation, however, and this is a killer for me, I found all those tiny but quite precise actions that required me to keep my finger on the surface of the phone quite problematic - my wrist became very sore very quickly, and the build-up of skin oils on the screen means that dragging your finger across the surface becomes more and more difficult.
I did a comparison from a comfort perspective between 8pen and the standard android keyboard, and I do find that pecking at the various keys on the keyboard is actually much better for my hands - rather than using lots of tiny muscles to make small precise movements with a single finger, I use a couple of large muscles and move my whole hand to the various keys.
I wasn't quite sure what was going on with the predictive text part of 8pen, but I certainly didn't find it as accurate as the standard keyboard - it seemed to regularly think that I was trying to enter obscure words of at least 5 syllables when I was just trying to write 'testing' for example!
8pen has also implemented non-standard gestures that you can record - anything that doesn't start in the central section can be recorded as a gesture. So for example, I get really sick of having to type my email address in. With 8pen, I created a single gesture which I could draw in the input area and have it translate to my full email address. This I like. But the physical aspects of using 8pen mean that it is a no-go for me I'm afraid.