User interaction with the telephone has changed over the years, and you can reckon that it’ll keep progressing. Five apps are available right now that take telephone UI to the extremes.

The early rotary-dial telephone used a lethargic, circular interface to create electrical pulses to route the call. The introduction of audible tones for routing calls later, speeded things up, by allowing for quicker-to-press hardware buttons.

We’ve ended up today at the capacitive touch-screen, which in itself has limitations, not least that you can’t use them with gloves—the screen uses the human body’s electrical conductivity for input.

So, there’s still room for improvement. And developers will continually try to push the envelope in terms of improving UI within the limitations of the technology available.

Android has five apps that are available right now in the Google Play store, in varying stages of release, that take smartphone UI to the extremes.

Here’s a look at the best five innovative keyboards and ways to control your smartphone like never before.

A single strip of keys runs along the bottom saving screen real-estate.

1. Minuum Keyboard

If you’ve found smartphone keyboards to be sloppy-typing inducing, and fiddly, app Minuum Keyboard (free to $3.99 in the Google Play store) may have the answer. This app provides a rethought keyboard for the miniature screens that we thick-fingered folk have to use.

Minuum has completely re-imagined the on-screen keyboard with a single strip of keys running along the bottom of the screen, rather than a mass of chunky keyboard decimating the bottom half of the screen. It’s space-saving, and remarkably helpful for the fat fingered.

Icons haven’t changed much since Xerox invented them in 1973—until now that is.

2. Pie Control

Here’s an app that addresses the ergonomic shortfalls of a rectangular smartphone combined with a pivoting thumb. Coolace’s Pie Control (free) and Pie Control Pro ($1.90) lets you create a pie-shaped touch pad for common actions, on the left or right side of the screen.

The advantage to this pie-like layout is that it follows the form of your thumb pivot, allowing you to swipe easily reached icons, rather than stab, two-handed, at far away icons on ever increasingly large screens.

Pie Control may well be the first major ergonomic-induced change in the icon world.

Swiftkey’s split-keyboard takes into account the limitations inherent in a thumb’s reach.

3. Swiftkey

Swiftkey (from free to $3.99) is the granddaddy of alternative keyboards and bills itself as a mind-reader. It’s now best-selling, and there’s a reason for that because it supplies highly accurate, learning-style auto-correct.

Somewhat creepily it predicts words based on what it’s learned from watching what you type.

However, what’s even more brilliant, is its multiple keyboard layouts. One of them, particularly well-suited to larger tablets, generates a split-screen thumb-based layout where the keyboard is broken up into two easy-to-reach by thumb sections, with the hard-to-reach void unused in the middle.

Wave Control lets you operate your phone without touching it.

  1. Wave Control

Wave Control (free) and its more-command-packed Wave Control Pro ($2.99) simply let you control apps on your phone with a wave. No touching is required—and that’s a good thing if you’re getting tired of wiping your screen of finger marks daily.

This app will allow you to control music in the kitchen when your hands are covered with ingredients; change songs when driving without taking your eyes off the road; and best of all, eat at a street-vendor without besmearing your device.

Call functions on a hands-free app such as this have applications in the medical field too, amongst other areas, where it’s impractical to touch a phone.

The app works with music or video streaming apps that support headset controls.

Upgrade your device to trigger voice input.

  1. Google Now

Google Now is Android’s voice activated search feature.

While native on some phones including Motorola’s Moto X, Google’s Google Now voice activated launcher can be installed on any Nexus or Google Play edition device running Android 4.4 KitKat through a free app available in the Play store. Search for the term: “Google Now Launcher.”

Then just say “OK Google Now” when you’re in your home screen, and voice input for search will be activated. A less sophisticated version can be found for other devices in Google’s Search app. It’s also in Play.

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