Android this week: Swype for ICS; Best selling tablets; Android 5.0?

This week saw Swype’s latest beta software gain support for Android 4.0 devices. This innovative keyboard allows for speedy text input by tracing letters on a keyboard, rather than tapping and lifting fingers. The Swype keyboard also includes word suggestions to speed up the input process and make it easier to enter the correct words.

The latest beta is the first to include support Android 4.0(s goog) devices. Although there are very few official handsets that run the latest version of Google’s mobile platform known as Ice Cream Sandwich, it’s good to see that some developers are preparing their apps for Android 4.0. And just a few minutes after installing Swype on my Galaxy Nexus handset, I was tracing out words at a fairly high speed. The keyboard could actually convert me from a two-handed into more of a one-handed smartphone user.

On the tablet scene, annual slate sales for 2011 showed that Android tablets are beginning to take more of the market from Apple’s successful iPad. Research firm iHS reported thatĀ Apple sold a total of 40.4 million units last year, accounting for 62 percent of all tablets sold. In 2010, the iPad took 87 percent of the market. So has Android finally found some footing in the tablet market?

It has if you count the Android-based Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet devices, which together accounted for 11 percent of all tablet sales in 2011. That’s nearly half of the market share gains Android tablets made on the iPad. The low cost of these media slates — $199 to $249 — is a likely factor, but another commonality is a strong ecosystem of digital media. Samsung may not have the same breadth of media options available, which is why I suspect it’s new Galaxy Tab 2 will be priced to compete with these low-cost slates.

Even though Android 4.0 is just getting on both smartphones and tablets now, rumors surfaced that Android 5.0 will launch in the second quarter of this year. DigiTimes reported the news, citing Taiwan-based supply chain makers. There’s a few problems with this report, however.

DigiTimes claims that “Android 4.0 did not perform as well as expected.” It’s far too early to make such a statement when only one tablet — the Asus Transformer Prime, which I think is the best large Android tablet yet — and one smartphone, the Galaxy Nexus, come with Android 4.0. Could Google announce high level plans for Android 5.0 in the second quarter? Sure, it could; likely at its yearly Google I/O developer conference. But I wouldn’t expect such software to launch on devices in 2012.