Siine Keyboard Review: The Keyboard for Frequent, Hurried Texters
At a Glance
Frequent texters may want to check out a new keyboard app that's making waves: Siine Ltd's Siine, which is free on Google Play.
Siine is a keyboard replacement app, which means that it replaces the default keyboard that ships on your phone. When you first open Siine, the app walks you through setting up the app as your default keyboard. Afterward, you'll never have to explicitly open the app again--it will simply replace your keyboard in all of your apps.
Siine looks like a basic touchscreen QWERTY keyboard, except that it includes a few extra buttons. What differentiates Siine from other keyboards is its use of "siines"--preprogrammed words and phrases that are indicated by colorful icons. Siines come in handy if you're busy, in a rush, or otherwise preoccupied--a bright pink icon is a lot easier to see than individual letters or words are.
Squeezed in at the bottom of the screen is a clock button (for adding times to your email and text messages), a 'Siine' button (blue with a white hand), and a sliding menu in the lower right corner that provides access to emoticons, favorites, and the calendar feature.
The basic idea behind Siine makes sense: You can text more speedily if you can tap icons for phrases instead of typing them out letter-by-letter. Unfortunately, the app's implementation isn't great. To its credit, simple typing on the Siine keyboard works well and, in my opinion, is slightly more accurate than typing on the default Android keyboard. There are some neat shortcuts, too--such as the option to delete characters quickly by placing your finger on the delete key and making a circular motion--that make typing go somewhat faster.
That said, Siine isn't ready for prime time. Among the features that the app lacks are a shift key (to get a capital letter you have to press and hold the letter and then choose the capital from a list of accented letters), decent auto-complete and word prediction, haptic feedback, and a shortcut button for voice dictation. It's strange that Siine didn't choose to include these capabilities, since all of them tend to make texting faster and easier.
Overall, the Siine app tends to overestimate the usefulness of siines. After using Siine for more than a week, I feel that siines are only useful if you're preoccupied with another task while texting--for example, if you're trying to text under the table during a meeting or while in class. In those situations, you may have to glance quickly or surreptitiously at your phone, and brightly colored blocks are easier to identify than strings of characters.
When you're texting in a low-pressure situation, though, siines aren't useful unless you frequently text the same thing. The only siine I've managed to find any use for has been "hey, what's up." That's because the app ships with very basic siines (such as "Hello" and "Bye"), most of which take less time to type than to find in the siine menu. Downloadable siines include slang words, but how often does anyone need to use the phrase "Chill out, Bro" in a text message?
Siine Ltd. also promotes "siine sets"--free, downloadable (via the keyboard) collections of siines created by the company and by other users. Siine sets are a cute idea, but again--not very useful, considering that every texter is different and speaks in an individual own style. You can have as many siine sets as you like, though having too many siines makes the keyboard less efficient.
Siine has an unusual layout that takes some getting used to if you're already comfortable with the default Android keyboard.
If you reuse certain phrases over and over in your texts, Siine may be worth your while. If not, I recommend that you stick with the default Android keyboard, or try your hand at learning Swype. The keyboard works fine in both portrait and landscape mode and has no lag that I can detect, but it's not quite ready to serve as a solid replacement.
This app was tested using a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Android 4.0.2