by Imran Ali

A few weeks ago, I met with Mark Simpson of DigitWireless. Mark talked me through DigitWireless' innovative Fastap keypad design, their business model and a number of conceptual and working handsets.

Interestingly, the founder David Levy, is an Apple alumni, responsible for the design of the Powerbook. Levy's Fastap keypad is presented as more an enabling technology, rather than simply a keypad layout; it's intended to help carriers and handset manufacturers remove UI barriers and likely increase usage of mobile services.

Fastap uses a combination of raised and lowered keys, and depending where keys are pressed, a patented algorithm determines which character the user intended to select. Raised keys are largely used for alphabetic characters, whereas lower keys are used for diacritic, numbers and shortcut keys.

Playing about with the demonstration handsets, now shipping with Telus I believe, provides a fun, intuitive user experience...for Latin-based alphabets, every character has its own key, so users need no instruction on how to use a Fastap-enabled handset.

Like Tegic, the creators of T9, DigitWireless' business model is essentially to license Fastap to OEMs, carriers and handset manufacturers. DigitWireless' will be determined by its route to market...a tortuous one in the mobile sector!

Personally, I loved the demo handsets and I believe the technology has immense potential for telephony - the same way the mouse helped along GUIs, I think Fastap can further the mobile and handheld era...perhaps even for non-telephony, handheld devices such as TV remotes - tap out the show you're searching for.

My fantasy phone? Trolltech's Greenphone, enabled with Fastap and powered by a vibrant developer community. Yum.

Wouldn't it be great to get David Levy to talk about his experiences with Apple and DigitWireless at ETech? Fingers Crossed :)