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I've seen that there are lots of custom keyboards for Android, but all are QWERTY keyboards. I couldn't find any keyboard with T9 layout.

Is this because T9 is patented and the QWERTY layout is not? So if I made a T9 keyboard, I would have to pay patent fees?

So what does the patent protect when you look at T9? Only the layout? Or the prediction engine? The problem is, this way of predicting words is the only one that makes sense for this layout ...

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What do you mean by "keyboard with T9 layout"? T9 is a predictive text technology, not a keyboard layout. –  MainMa Jun 4 '12 at 14:20
Are you assuming there is a patent, or do you know there is one? If there is one, can you provide a source? Also, did you try changing the settings on any of the phones? I was just able to change my Android phone's keyboard to T9. Just because it's not default doesn't mean it's not an option... –  Jeremy Heiler Jun 4 '12 at 14:58
@JeremyHeiler google.com/patents?id=PmgCAAAAEBAJ –  Yannis Rizos Jun 4 '12 at 15:02
Since the layout has existed for decades on phones, I wouldn't think that alone would be patentable. –  Steven Burnap Jun 4 '12 at 16:46
That patent was filed on 7/26/95, so it's coming up on its 17th birthday which means it's about to expire. OTOH, that patent is for predictive text / words not for the layout of the keys. As Steven pointed out - that layout has been around a long, long, long time. –  GlenH7 Jun 4 '12 at 16:52
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

If by "keyboad with T9 layout", you mean keyboard with ten or twelve keys, the reason why Qwerty layout is preferred is simple: it's easier and more intuitive to type text with a full keyboard rather than ten-keys one. Just like it's easier to type using ten keys rather than one (which is still possible, using Morse code).

If ten or twelve keys keyboard was (is?) so popular in mobile phones, it's because those phones were originally small to accommodate a full keyboard (count 26 letters for English, or more for some other languages, plus 10 keys for digits, plus many other keys for punctuation) keeping the size of each key reasonable.

Today, large tactile screens make this limitation obsolete, since there is more place for a keyboard, and you can display some keys or others depending on the context (i.e. you don't need, for example, to display permanently the digits, but only show them on request or in a given context).

As for auto-completion, nothing forbids someone to implement one in a full keyboard too, in replacement of T9.

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Indeed swipe is used for autocompletion on Android –  Andrea Jun 4 '12 at 14:31
Thank you very much! So what is actually protected by this patent (T9)? I can use a layout with 12 keys where 9 hold letters but only the technology for prediction is protected? This means that I cannot use the layout with 9/12 keys, either, because there's no other way of prediction that makes sense, as I wrote in the question. Right? Just displaying the words that are possible with the given combination of letters - ordered by frequency in descending order - this is T9, isn't it? –  Marco W. Jun 4 '12 at 14:52
@Marco W.: see google.com/patents?id=PmgCAAAAEBAJ –  MainMa Jun 4 '12 at 14:54
But the layout with 12 keys is easier to use with one hand, isn't it? –  Marco W. Jun 4 '12 at 21:11
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