Hack Level: Amateur
Time Redeemed: 1 hour 16 mins per year (5 new texts/day, 2.5s saved per text)
My first mobile phone was a good ol’ Nokia, complete with antenna, Snake and the magical T9 predictive text algorithms. I fondly remember T9, which made typing words with a 9-numbered keypad an incredibly intuitive, fast, one-handed and “eyes-free” affair.
I do miss the tactility and convenience of that hardware keypad, though those input methods are dying with the advent of modern smartphones. Yet there are still developers who work to bring some of that magic back to our phones – one of my favourite apps on Windows Phone that uses this concept is RapDialer.
RapDialer is a quick way for people to call or text their contacts, primarily with a T9 input form (though there is so much customisation available, you could move to a QWERTY). I’ve been following the app since it launched, and the dev has done amazing work keeping the app updated and adding new, useful features.
At its simplest, RapDialer helps you quickly search through your phonebook contacts with T9 (e.g. if I wanted to find “dad”, I would tap “3,2,3”). However, there are a wealth of other features – I’ll run through a few of my favourites.
Firstly, the app can be set to search alternative information available in your phonebook, such as email addresses, company name, and job titles. This is a boon to those who, in that moment, need to draw upon related information to find the contact.
You can also use gestures to quickly contact friends; after search pulls up a list of contacts, a tap on a contact prompts if you’d like to make a phone call, a short swipe to the right on the contact opens up a group text selection, while a long swipe brings you to the native SMS composer (a second swipe in the group selection page also launches the composer).
As I mentioned earlier, the app is also incredibly customisable. To give you an idea of what can be done, personally I’ve:
- Set my keyboard to a large 12-dialer format
- Set the keyboard to be closed by default on startup
- Chosen “Favourites” as my opening screen
- Filtered contacts to search only Google and Skype contacts
- Set the dialed numbers to appear above the keyboard
- Changed the icon of the app
- Set my contacts to sync with my phonebook only once a day
Of course, bells and whistles don’t mean much for productivity – the real question is, how efficient is the app?
My extremely scientific tests involved counting the time taken to go from Start Screen to typing a message, using three different names (Dad, Charles, Rebecca) and via three different methods (RapDialer, Messaging, People).
Overall, RapDialer came up tops – saving an average of 2.5s per attempt. Considering that i took about 6.6s via the native Messaging app, that’s a time saving of 38% every time you want to text a new message!
Of course your results will vary depending on how many people are in your phonebook, and how used you are to a T9 style of typing (my guess is the QWERTY generation will not get as much out of this as I did). There are two things that RapDialer has going for it: less taps, and allowance for sloppiness.
A quick comparison of the number of taps/inputs for each method:
- People: Start > Search button > Type name > Tap contact > Tap SMS > Tap message input box = 6 taps
- Messaging: Start > Compose (“+”) button > Tap “To” field > Type name > Tap contact > Tap message input box = 6 taps
- RapDialer: Start > Tap numbers > Long swipe on contact to open composer, message input box already selected = 3 taps
Less taps/input means less room for error. Additionally, using the large 12-number keyboard means a lot of room to hit keys (as compared to a more common QWERTY keypad).
Of course, there are some limitations. In particular, you can only use the native calling or texting functions; frequent users of VOIP or 3G messaging will find limited use for RapDialer. Overall though, I really do find RapDialer a great convenience – I only wish I could search and open apps using it, much like AppDialer does on Android.
What do you think? Is RapDialer a real time-saver? Or do you use VOIP or 3G messaging services so much, that the app has only a limited effectiveness? Leave a comment below!