HWR Pricing

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Two quick questions for those of you with some Android Chinese experience.

While it seems like most of our add-on prices should be reasonably sustainable on Android - OCR's selling like gangbusters even in the beta, so I don't think it really needs to go any lower than $15 - one area where I am feeling like we may be charging too much is fullscreen handwriting input. While free Chinese handwriting options are available on both iOS and Android, on Android there are lots of third-party Chinese handwriting IMEs and it's much less likely that our system would offer something that's not available any other way.

So my two questions:

1) How would you compare the accuracy of our handwriting system with those of other popular systems on Android, especially with free ones like gPen / HanWriting?

2) How much is the convenience factor of app integration (faster input method switching etc) worth to you by itself?
 

Daan

秀才
Pleco's HWR is quite a bit better than HanWriting on my phone, in both speed and accuracy. I haven't tried gPen, so I can't comment on that. Does this mean, though, that I can already buy the HWR add-on to enable it in the beta version I'm running now? At the moment it recognises the characters I draw, but it won't let me look them up. So if I buy the HWR add-on for Android, I'll just be able to draw things and look them up?
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Daan said:
Does this mean, though, that I can already buy the HWR add-on to enable it in the beta version I'm running now? At the moment it recognises the characters I draw, but it won't let me look them up. So if I buy the HWR add-on for Android, I'll just be able to draw things and look them up?
Yes, you can buy it from pleco.com/store ("Android Add-ons" category on the left side of the screen). It's also included in all of the bundles and in most transferred Palm/WM licenses.
 

Lurks

探花
HanWriting is really really bad, its not in the same game. gPen, however, is excellent.

I notice that gPen gets the same character about as quickly as Pleco but the 2nd, 3rd, 4th deng options are often just rubbish on gPen compared to Pleco. That makes me think that if you get something badly wrong, you're more likely to find a good result on Pleco. I experimented drawing really cack symbols but I was still getting everything or nothing as far as character recognition. Maybe it's because I'm using the right stroke order?

However in general terms, I find they both work identically. That said, even with Pleco with HWR on my phone, I would still be tempted to use Hanping. How could this possibly be?

Mostly convenience. Hanping starts instantly and it has a little button you press to go straight to the HWR on a one-time basis. It's a constant source of minor irritation having to switch modes in Pleco.

I would say gPen draws noticeably smoother and I prefer the finer stroke. It seems a bit fuzzy on the Android Pleco. That's just cosmetic though and wouldn't make me choose one or the other.

As the question is whether gPen can be considered a reasonable match for Pleco's HWR then the answer is yes.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Lurks said:
Mostly convenience. Hanping starts instantly and it has a little button you press to go straight to the HWR on a one-time basis. It's a constant source of minor irritation having to switch modes in Pleco.
If your phone has a hardware search button, you can press that to switch input modes - bit faster at least.

But slow input mode switching has been long overdue for a fix; people are bugged by it on iOS too, and the discoverability for new HWR users is terrible. The problem is that we really don't have a lot of toolbar space in which to wedge in yet another button (on top of the ergonomic concerns), so we have to come up with some other approach... one thing I've been toying with is putting a faint vertical dividing line in the background of the input field and opening up in HWR versus keyboard mode depending on whether you tap on the left or right half of the field; would that work for you?

Lurks said:
I would say gPen draws noticeably smoother and I prefer the finer stroke. It seems a bit fuzzy on the Android Pleco. That's just cosmetic though and wouldn't make me choose one or the other.
By "smooth" you mean that the lines are smoother rather than that the actual stroke capture is more responsive, right? We really have to add some stroke-smoothing code to the next release - we did that on Palm/WM but dropped it on iOS since iOS actually does it for us.

You can already get a finer stroke via Settings / Dictionary / Input methods / Handwriting input / Stroke thickness.
 

Lurks

探花
Oo good to know on the setting and search button.

That UI input method switch sounds great to me, it'd be a nice improvement. May be a concern it's not obvious for people that don't know about it, as you said discoverability of HWR being low. I think 'HWR' doesn't help, it doesn't evoke what it is. I didn't have to hunt for anything in HanPing, it was immediately obvious what a pen-shaped icon would do.

I meant the stroke capture. It just feels more responsible, looking closely the Pleco updates seem to be less often. It's really not that big of a deal though.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Lurks said:
That UI input method switch sounds great to me, it'd be a nice improvement. May be a concern it's not obvious for people that don't know about it, as you said discoverability of HWR being low. I think 'HWR' doesn't help, it doesn't evoke what it is. I didn't have to hunt for anything in HanPing, it was immediately obvious what a pen-shaped icon would do.
We've had a few people mention that on iOS too, though the main discoverability issue seems to simply be that the buttons don't change enough for people to have their attention drawn to the newly-added one. But pen and keyboard icons in the background of the input field would be much better than Key/HWR text anyway to avoid distraction (we actually have a "hide placeholder text" option on iOS because a lot of people find the gray "Pleco" default text annoying).

Lurks said:
I meant the stroke capture. It just feels more responsible, looking closely the Pleco updates seem to be less often. It's really not that big of a deal though.
Might be the fancy alpha-blending we're doing to get that faded gray edge...

Thanks for the more general comment on accuracy, seems like we do need to find a way to make HWR cheaper...
 

neilperks

进士
Hi Mike,

Maybe not relevant to the pricing issue, but I agree with Lurks on the Icons. It may sound stupid, but when I first installed the Android beta I searched for handwriting intput for a while, I assumed "HWR" was something to do with "hardware". Same with "Vox", didn't instantly hit me as what it was. Even now I still have this pause before hitting the correct key; wierd I know, but I'm getting old :)

When they added handwriting to Hanping I didn't have to think, just straight for the brush icon.

Picture Icons definately the way to go (well thats my thoughts anyway).

Cheers

Neil
 

Lurks

探花
I didn't really give you an answer regarding what it's worth. It's indispensable in Pleco on iPhone so I'd pay, without question. (Assuming I had any money :)

I suppose competitively Hanping + gPen is a bit of a worry given it's kind of chicken feed money and very serviceable. In honesty I'd struggle to justify buying the HWR add-on, and make do with Hanping. While the OCR and dictionaries are killer features of Pleco. There's zero penalty when switching between apps on Android obviously.

Incidentally my iOS Pleco seems quite crashy to me? Fortunately I never seem to really lose anything and a simple tap gets me back in where I was. Never in the flashcards, always on dictionaries.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
neilperks said:
Maybe not relevant to the pricing issue, but I agree with Lurks on the Icons. It may sound stupid, but when I first installed the Android beta I searched for handwriting intput for a while, I assumed "HWR" was something to do with "hardware". Same with "Vox", didn't instantly hit me as what it was. Even now I still have this pause before hitting the correct key; wierd I know, but I'm getting old
Not stupid at all, it's perfectly reasonable - it's just a lot easier to slap a label on a control in a beta app than it is to painstakingly design an icon for it :)

Lurks said:
I suppose competitively Hanping + gPen is a bit of a worry given it's kind of chicken feed money and very serviceable. In honesty I'd struggle to justify buying the HWR add-on, and make do with Hanping. While the OCR and dictionaries are killer features of Pleco. There's zero penalty when switching between apps on Android obviously.
Well that's the thing; we've got the resources to beat out anyone on features-for-money - it would be quite feasible for us to license gPen (or another recognizer of comparable quality) and give it away in our free app if we were worried enough about the threat from Hanping - but every time we do that, it lowers our profit margins a bit and makes it harder for us to invest as much as we'd like in adding new features / dictionaries / etc.

It was hard enough to justify the Android port financially as-is, and if our margins take another big whack on Android compared to iOS then the Android port starts to seem like a less-than-brilliant move considering how many interesting new paid add-ons we could have licensed / developed on iOS with the same amount of resources.

Lurks said:
Incidentally my iOS Pleco seems quite crashy to me? Fortunately I never seem to really lose anything and a simple tap gets me back in where I was. Never in the flashcards, always on dictionaries.
Could you send me your crash logs?

Mac OS X : /Users/(your username)/Library/Logs/CrashReporter/MobileDevice/(your device name)
Windows XP: C:\Documents and Settings\(your username)\Application Data\Apple Computer\Logs\CrashReporter\MobileDevice\(your device name)
Windows Vista / 7: C:\Users\(your username)\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\Logs\CrashReporter\MobileDevice\(your device name)

(on WIndows that "Application Data" folder may be hidden - choose "Folder Options" from the "Tools" menu, go to the "View" tab and check the radio button to "Show hidden files and folders" to make hidden folders visible)
 

jashsu

Member
It would be a pretty difficult sell to try selling a handwriting module that only works with Pleco when the user could buy a third party Handwriting IME that can work across all of his other apps, unless you are some how doing something the competition doing specifically for learning purposes like coloring strokes by their inputted order.

You might consider implementing the left and right panes as fragments-- that may help improve code modularity in the future. A fragments API exists to backport support for fragments onto pre-Honeycomb handsets and tablets running 1.6 or higher.

What would be really nice is for Pleco to act as an intent handler for shared text. That would allow me to highlight text in any application (e.g. browser) and then use the Share option to send it to Pleco for translation.

Anyway back on topic, here's Pleco on a xoom inputting with Penpower for Tablet. Works well.
http://i.imgur.com/RE3ON.png
http://i.imgur.com/7DNKV.png
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
jashsu said:
It would be a pretty difficult sell to try selling a handwriting module that only works with Pleco when the user could buy a third party Handwriting IME that can work across all of his other apps, unless you are some how doing something the competition doing specifically for learning purposes like coloring strokes by their inputted order.
Actually, there's a free Chinese handwriting IME built into every iPhone/iPod/iPad ever made and yet our $15 full-screen handwriting input module is one of our top sellers on iOS; people are willing to pay a lot for a fullscreen interface (very difficult to get in an IME), greater accuracy, and tighter app integration. The worry is that with the plethora of third-party Chinese handwriting IMEs available on Android, fewer people may find themselves unable to be satisfied by one of their other options.

jashsu said:
You might consider implementing the left and right panes as fragments-- that may help improve code modularity in the future. A fragments API exists to backport support for fragments onto pre-Honeycomb handsets and tablets running 1.6 or higher.
We've done that already, actually - the fragment API appeared at just the right time for our development purposes. Pretty much all of our modular interfaces are implemented as Fragments, we've even Fragment-ified a few not-yet-modular ones like the document reader screen in anticipation of future multi-fragment interfaces using them.

jashsu said:
What would be really nice is for Pleco to act as an intent handler for shared text. That would allow me to highlight text in any application (e.g. browser) and then use the Share option to send it to Pleco for translation.
That's a very good idea - we'll look into adding that in the next beta, thanks!
 
I currently use the beta on my Desire and I have no problems so far. Being a student of Chinese, I most miss the flashcards and the Oxford dictionary, which I used to have on my iPaq. It'll come, I'm sure.

On the Desire I have gPen, the NCIKU app and the free version of Hanping, both without HWR. gPen works great, although that for a student the short time you get to draw the character is tight. There probably is a setting somewhere, but I haven’t even looked. I’ll have to get my writing up to speed ;-)

I also have a Xoom tablet, but because I have a single user license, I have not yet tried Pleco on it. I did try the demo only and that looked great, including the HWR.
I can tell you though that there is no decent free HWR for Android tablets yet (that I know of). gPen doesn’t scale well to the big screen, it is not usable on a tablet. I haven't tried Penpower.
I have the free version of Hanping, so I can’t try the HWR. I don't plan on buying a Hanping license either, why pay for another app when Pleco is on the market? I'll gladly pay for whatever I need to get the Pleco apps going on my Android phone and tablet. If the Pleco HWR then could be used as a general IME, I'm set.

As for the text reading and translation features, which I used on the iPaq frequently: that would be the feature I would use most on the tablet, not the phone.
 

jashsu

Member
Marc Vermeiren said:
On the Desire I have gPen, the NCIKU app and the free version of Hanping, both without HWR. gPen works great, although that for a student the short time you get to draw the character is tight. There probably is a setting somewhere, but I haven’t even looked. I’ll have to get my writing up to speed ;-)

I also have a Xoom tablet, but because I have a single user license, I have not yet tried Pleco on it. I did try the demo only and that looked great, including the HWR.
I can tell you though that there is no decent free HWR for Android tablets yet (that I know of). gPen doesn’t scale well to the big screen, it is not usable on a tablet. I haven't tried Penpower.
I have the free version of Hanping, so I can’t try the HWR. I don't plan on buying a Hanping license either, why pay for another app when Pleco is on the market? I'll gladly pay for whatever I need to get the Pleco apps going on my Android phone and tablet. If the Pleco HWR then could be used as a general IME, I'm set.
Hanping Pro licenses gPen for its embedded handwriting panel. If you are experiencing problems with recognition times, I suggest you give the PenPower IME a try. It uses a two area layout so there is no time limit for between strokes-- you simply start writing in the other area when you are done with the first character, alternating back and forth. I do wish those panels could have been a little smaller on a 10" tablet though.

I could see myself continuing to use Hanping Pro alongside Pleco because Hanping's interface is just so clean and single-purpose. Perhaps Pleco's current layout design could use some tweaking to optimize for tablets. For example using the Honeycomb title/menu bar would really help unify and tie up the UI a little. Maybe use a more solid dividing line between the two activity fragments, set the default font size a little smaller on xlarge screens, stuff like that.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Marc Vermeiren said:
I currently use the beta on my Desire and I have no problems so far. Being a student of Chinese, I most miss the flashcards and the Oxford dictionary, which I used to have on my iPaq. It'll come, I'm sure.
Oxford should come quite soon - database files are ready and we're just waiting on some administrative issues. Flashcards hopefully not too far off either; with iCloud sync looming on the horizon for our iOS version we're thinking maybe we should just port what we have now to Android, and deal with porting over the new features we're working on in due course.

Marc Vermeiren said:
I have the free version of Hanping, so I can’t try the HWR. I don't plan on buying a Hanping license either, why pay for another app when Pleco is on the market? I'll gladly pay for whatever I need to get the Pleco apps going on my Android phone and tablet. If the Pleco HWR then could be used as a general IME, I'm set.
Great!

It's unlikely it'll be usable as a general IME, but we'll try to price it appropriately as an app add-on.

jashsu said:
Perhaps Pleco's current layout design could use some tweaking to optimize for tablets. For example using the Honeycomb title/menu bar would really help unify and tie up the UI a little. Maybe use a more solid dividing line between the two activity fragments, set the default font size a little smaller on xlarge screens, stuff like that.
The current UI style is kind of rough, but I'm loath to rely on a particular Android version's UI since there's still so much skinning (likely to become an even bigger problem once the next big update hits in the fall and we've got mobiles juggling the holographic UI from Honeycomb, the green-tinted one from 2.3 and the orange-tinted one from 2.2). So it's more likely that we'll simply work to make our toolbar design more attractive. We can actually make things a lot more single-minded with the move to merged multi-dictionary search -> no more language or dictionary switch buttons.

Good idea about the dividing line. Font size I'm not sure about... it does feel a little large, but at the same time the vast majority of entries fit on the screen at the current size, so the readability benefits are significant.
 
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