Microsoft Releases a Beta Keyboard App for Android Wear

Microsoft Releases a Beta Keyboard App for Android Wear

And no, it's not April Fool's

While I'm more onboard with Microsoft's "mobile first, cloud first" mantra than most Windows fans, this one sounds almost too bizarre to be true, even to me. The firm has released a prototype version of a coming mobile app called Analog Keyboard for Android Wear which, true to its name, lets users enter text by drawing handwritten letters on the watch face.

So. Yeah.

It's not really a fully-functional Android Wear solution per se, but in many respects this app represents Microsoft's second major offering for the fledgling wearable platform. In September, the firm released a OneNote app as, ahem, noted in OneNote Comes to Android Wear Watches.

That app is pretty bare-boned: In my testing with a Samsung Gear Live watch, I found it to be OK, if you're into the Dick Tracy thing: Say "OK, Google" and then "Take a note" to begin dictating a new note, which will be saved in Quick Notes in your default OneNote notebook.

Analog Keyboard for Android Wear comes from Microsoft Research and is perhaps a little more general. And it's not so much an "app" as it is a background service, since the theory here is that you will use this keyboard throughout your Android Wear experience. As a pre-release solution, you can download it directly from Microsoft and then side-load it using some fairly complex instructions, which I've not yet attempted. So it's not ready for the general public yet, of course.

But here's how it works, according to Microsoft: When you tap in a text field (such as that found in a messaging or search app) on the watch, the Analog Keyboard fills the screen.

Then, you start drawing characters, one by one. As you do, a text field at the top fills in to show what you've typed.

There are Back and Space keys to the sides of the typing area, and you can tap a Done button to submit your entry. As with the virtual keyboards in Windows Phone 8.x (and now Windows 10), it even makes typing suggestions as you go.

It does look interesting.

Download Analog Keyboard for Android Wear from the Microsoft web site.

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