Nokia and Samsung both invest in Swype

by Caroline Gabriel, Rethink Wireless

The next generation of touchscreen functionality is the focus of phonemakers’ plans to challenge Apple in 2010. Just days after Motorola announced an investment in Sensitive Object, which brings touch capabilities to all kinds of devices and surfaces, Nokia and Samsung have both injected money into another start-up, Swype, whose technology uses quick tracing motions on touchscreens to input text efficiently.

Swype has secured $5.6m in a Series B round of funding that was led by Samsung Ventures, Nokia Growth Partners and returning investor Benaroya Capital. The company said it plans to use the money to build new partnerships for integrating its technology, Genius Texting, into handsets, and at a later stage, into other touch-based and remote screen devices.

Samsung is also a customer, having been the first vendor to incorporate Swype in a commercial device, the Omnia II Windows Mobile smartphone, which launched last month. The next goal for the smaller firm is Android support, which could also be harnessed by Samsung, and it can already work with Symbian and Java, and will be present on its first Symbian phones (presumably from Nokia) early next year. Samsung has long time links with Swype founder Cliff Kushler, having been an early adopter of the T9 predictive texting software that Kushler invented.

Swype is aiming to make its current software available in every language and today supports more than 20. Genius Texting means users do not have to lift their fingers off the screen to text, but instead wave them “like a magic wand”, dragging it from letter to letter until a word is completed. This is faster, easier and more accurate than the methods used on the iPhone and other touch phones, says the vendor, supporting typing speeds of 50 words a minute because less movement is involved, (and there is an advanced autocorrect feature). The TechCrunch blog recently conducted a race between Genius Texting on the Omnia II and the iPhone, which showed the former running at about twice the speed of Apple texting.