Want Swype for Android? Now's your chance

Swype, a popular Android keyboard replacement, is now accepting new users -- but only for a limited time.

It's a weird sort of paradox: One of the most popular apps for Android is also one of the hardest to get.

I'm talking about a little something called Swype. Swype replaces your Android phone's on-screen keyboard with a slightly strange-sounding alternative: Rather than tapping keys individually, you slide your finger around your screen -- without ever lifting it -- to input the words you want. According to Swype's creators, this unique method of typing allows you to input text 30 percent faster than you could with a standard smartphone keyboard.

Swype comes preinstalled on a handful of Android devices, but if you don't have one of those phones, the app can be tough to get your fingers on. The reason: Swype is in a limited beta mode, and it welcomes new users only once in a while.

Well, call it a Festivus miracle: Swype is currently accepting new members into its beta world. You may not be able to get Android Gingerbread on your phone by New Year's, by golly, but you can get this.

If you want to sign up for the Swype beta program and try the slide-to-type keyboard method for yourself, just head over to Swype's beta site and click on the link to register. The app is free, but there's no telling how long registration will remain open -- so if you're interested, you might want to sign up soon.

Of course, Swype isn't the only alternative method of inputting text with Android. Personally, I like a third-party keyboard replacement called Swiftkey; it predicts text as you type and can save quite a bit of time. It's also very easy to pick up, while a program like Swype has a learning curve and requires a certain amount of patience and adaptation.

Whatever your preference, there are plenty of options out there -- and it never hurts to explore.*

* Unless you forcefully poke yourself in the eye while doing it.

JR Raphael is a PCWorld contributing editor and the author of the Android Power blog. You can find him on both Facebook and Twitter.

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JR Raphael

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