The Google Nexus One smartphone may be manufactured by HTC, but the software is 100% Google. It comes with the standard Google Android 2.1 program launcher, contact manager, and other software. It also comes with the standard Google Android 2.1 keyboard, which is usable, but not exactly the best software keyboard I’ve used.
Fortunately, Google lets you install third party keyboards on Android handsets. And one of the best of those keyboards is the one designed by HTC to go with the HTC Sense user interface for Android. HTC doesn’t officially make this keyboard available for download. But the folks at the XDA Developers forum have ported a version of the keyboard to run on devices that don’t use the HTC Sense user interface — including the Google Nexus One.
In order to install the HTC keyboard, all you have to do is download the latest version of the installer from the XDA Developers forum. Then unzip the package and copy the two .apk files to your device and install them. One of the easiest ways to do this is to install a file manager like ASTRO and navigate to the folder where you copied the HTC_IME.apk and Clicker.apk files. Just click on them and open them with the App Manager to install the packages. You can also install a program called Apps Installer from the Android Market. When you run it, Apps Installer will scan your SD card for any .apk files, which you can then click once to install.
Next, you need to go to open your phone’s settings dialog and select “Languages & Keyboard.” Select the “Touch Input” option, and you can configure your settings in the “Touch Input settings” area.
The last thing you need to do to switch from the default keyboard to the HTC keyboard is open any application that allows you to enter text. Select the text area to bring up the keyboard and press and hold the lower left button on the standard keyboard to bring up a dialog box that lets you switch keyboards. Once you select the Touch Input option, you’ll have the HTC keyboard.
The spacing between the keys is a little more comfortable than the standard Android keyboard, and I find I can type a little faster with the HTC keyboard. On the downside, the Sense UI keyboard doesn’t really fit with the Android 2.1 color scheme all that well, so it looks a bit out of place. And I still find the iPhone/iPod Touch keyboard much easier to type on than either the standard Android or HTC Sense keyboards. Your results may vary.
If you don’t like the new keyboard, just go back to the “Language & keyboard” menu in the Android settings menu and unselect Touch Input. The stock Android keyboard will be restored.