An innovative new iPhone app allows users to type Khmer characters much faster than was previously possible, according to the developers.
The Khmer Smart Keyboard uses a “swipe” function to give users access to all of the Khmer alphabets 33 consonants, 23 vowels and 12 independent vowels.
Previously users had to press a virtual “shift” key to go back-and-forth between keyboards to access all the characters
Each character on the Khmer Smart Keyboard displays two characters, and to type the second character users swipe down, instead of tapping.
Product manager Kruy Vanna said that during their tests they found the users were able to type 40 words per minute with the new app, compared to just 28 words per minute using a regular smartphone keyboard.
The keyboard also includes shortcuts, such as swiping left across the keyboard to backspace and swiping right to bring up symbols and numbers.
Since hitting the iTunes store on October 13, the free app has been downloaded more than 42,400 times.
The majority of downloads have been in Cambodia, followed by the US and Canada.
The app has a five-star rating from users and reviews have been full of praise. One reviewer jokingly asks where the six-star rating option was.
After one week in the app store, Khmer Smart Keyboard was the most downloaded free app in Cambodia. It now sits at number nine, one place behind YouTube.
The launch of the app coincided with the release in October of a report from Open Institute that found that during 2014 there had been a 65 per cent increase in the number of phone users with a phone that supports Khmer characters.
It also found that the number of Cambodians who use Khmer text daily or weekly had gone up by 335 per cent, with an increase of more than 2,000 per cent for users between the ages of 35 and 45.
The report concluded that to increase the speed of Khmer text adoption, the development of better predictive text and input methods for Khmer in phones was recommended.
Vanna said the difficulties with typing in Khmer had affected the way Cambodians communicate. “Now we have a very serious problem with [how] most people use English to pronounce Khmer.”
When Cambodians write Khmer in the Roman alphabet, the result may include a word that exists in English already, forcing the reader to figure out whether they are seeing Khmer or an English word, he explained, giving the example “jol-jet”.
He has recruited a team to help him build a Khmer Smart Keyboard for Android. They have already started developing a predictive text function for the Khmer Smart Keyboard, which is expected to be completed in March 2015.
Vanna said he hopes to crowd-fund the money for the predictive text element of the app, which is estimated to cost up to $10,000 to develop, but will remain free to download.
“Apps are with you everywhere and can help you complete tasks very quickly,” said Vanna.