Noon: The First Arabic Transliteration Keyboard for Android
Most Android smartphones include traditional Arabic locale support, which provides Arabic fonts and the option to change the entire interface into Arabic. But how, you may be asking, do you write Arabic on your Android phone? Many in the region still resort to typing in Arabazi, which is the use of the Latin script to communicate in Arabic. They resort to using online tools to type without using an Arabic keyboard. For Android users, this can be a daunting task.
The Noon Keyboard provides a simple solution; the app is a free tool that allows Arab Android users to type in their native language without using an Arabic keyboard. By offering Arabazi functionality, the app allows the user to simply spell out each Arabic word the way they would pronounce it. Noon then converts it to the corresponding Arabic word.
Nader Ayad, Noon’s developer, discussed how Android operating systems’ lack of user-friendly Arabic support inspired him to create a solution.
Tell us a little bit more about Noon
Noon Keyboard is an Android keyboard that can be installed and used as a default input method on your Android. What is different about this keyboard is that it’s the first ever to actually let us directly transliterate using other online tools while typing, so that you don’t have to 1) type them in those tools on your browser, 2) copy-paste them, and 3) go back to the texting application you were using. It will just do it automatically, making it easier to write Arabic SMS, emails or any other text in Arabic.
For example, if you type ’3arabi’ or ‘arabi,’ it will automatically use the transliterating tools online to give you ’عربي.’
How did you come up with the app?
I was using Whatsapp in Arabic on my android, and I had completely irrelevant word suggestions coming up while I typed every letter. I had also had a transliterating website open on my desktop screen for the same purpose. That’s how it got to me: why not integrate both together for faster Arabic typing?
People see the lack Arabic typing as a big problem, and I saw it as a big problem on Android phones specifically. I was alternating focus between little bitty details and the big picture, which is why I think Noon is doing so well.
Why did you name it “Noon”?
‘Noon’ is the first letter of my name in Arabic, and the keyboard is a transliteration keyboard from English to Arabic, so it was fun to give it a sentimental name. Luckily, my name doesn’t start with the ‘Khah/خ.’
How big an opportunity is there for Noon?
Opportunities are always big enough; it’s up to how you grasp them. There is a big market for this app. Android is not very Arabic-friendly at the moment, and there is a big number of people who want to type Arabic in a fast and seamless way. It could also benefit users who are trying to learn to read and write Arabic, if you think about it.
Are you worried about any competition?
In my case, any input method on Android is competition, but I’m proud to say that Noon is the first of its kind. It’s the only transliteration keyboard for Android. There are applications available, such as TA3rib, but they aren’t keyboards.
How have your current users reacted towards Noon so far?
I have about 3,000 active users, so I’m happy to see that Noon is taking off. I know it’s doing well, because I had some technical issues for three days around a month ago. I was bombarded with angry users that want the keyboard working properly, and that gave me a great push. I knew it was resonating well with people, and I started working on enhancements, making it work even faster.
So what are you working on now?
Right now I’m brainstorming and planning a new big idea that I will hopefully start implementing soon. Noon takes up a lot of my time. I’m constantly getting emails about ‘the misery of typing in Arabic on my Android,’ so I’m always tweaking and updating Noon based on users’ suggestions. I’m working on a smoother UI, maybe even letting the users personalize their own theme. I also have two other Android apps that I need to continuously improve. One was for the Animals Lebanon Organization. The other is the Lebanese Memes Android app.
Source: Seeqnce Blog