Swype hits Droid, eyes iPhones for future

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With its technology already in smartphones like Motorola Inc’s Droid X, startup Swype is setting its sights on helping consumers type more easily on billions of phones, including iPhones.

Motorola's Droid X smart phone, which will be available through Verizon Wireless, is displayed during a news conference announcing its release in New York June 23, 2010. The phone will be available July 15. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Seattle-based Swype’s software lets users of virtual touch-screen keypads drag their fingers from letter to letter instead of tapping on each letter. This helps with accuracy and typing speed.

Since its first commercial phone launch in December, Swype has already been added to about 10 phone models and is expected to be in 50 devices by the end of 2010, said Chief Executive Mike McSherry. Its customers besides Motorola include Samsung Electronics and HTC Corp.

McSherry told Reuters at the Droid X launch event on Wednesday that this device would be its highest-profile phone to date given that Verizon Wireless, Droid X’s exclusive U.S. operator, has promised a major marketing campaign.

Including Droid, about 90 percent of Swype’s market so far is phones based on Google Inc’s Android software, the executive said.

But now that one of its engineers has built a version of Swype’s software for Apple Inc’s iPhone “in his free time,” McSherry hopes one day to license Swype to Apple.

“We would like to be on iPhone. It remains to be seen,” he said, noting that Swype has yet to show Apple the version of its software for iPhone.

While iPhone has millions of enthusiastic fans, some people say they carry another phone for emailing because of the difficulty of typing on a touch-screen phone.

Swype will also work on upcoming tablet computers from phone makers and traditional computing companies.

McSherry said it would be difficult for another company to replicate Swype’s patented technology, which took company founder Cliff Kushler about 8 years to develop.

He said Kushler -- the inventor of T9 predictive texting technology found in billion of phones -- developed Swype when asked to come up with a way to help disabled people use texting technology.

Swype, which has about 35 employees, has managed to attract big-name investors in the mobile industry with about $6.6 billion in funding raised since December last year.

Its investors include Japanese wireless provider NTT DoCoMo and the venture arms of leading phone makers Nokia Oyj and Samsung.

Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Gary Hill