There are a lot of factors when it comes to choosing an Android keyboard, from autocorrect to key size and aesthetics, but privacy and security are often overlooked features that may be the most important to consider before you click download. While the Google Play Store will warn you of the risks you take by downloading a third-party input device, it’s worth mentioning that any keyboard you download has the potential to record and report every single keystroke, whether it’s your weird tweets about your cat or your sensitive credit card and login information.
We did the research and found keyboards for Android that don’t just work efficiently and look good, but also have a history of user security and robust privacy policies so you can feel confident trusting them with all of your typing. If you do decide to go with a lesser-known keyboard, we’ve also included some precautions to take that will help protect your information — not just for keyboards, but for any app from the Google Play Store and beyond.
One of the easiest ways to avoid any malware is to stick to the Google Play Store. Sideloading apps you get elsewhere can be great for enabling functionality you might not find elsewhere, but these programs aren’t checked by Google for malware or viruses. If you aren’t completely sure of an app’s origins, giving it permission to access your device is a huge mistake. On the Google Play Store you can also see how many times an app has been downloaded, as well as the reviews that other users have given it. An app with millions of downloads and good reviews is most likely safe, especially if it’s been in the app store for a while, but an app with only a few thousand downloads and mostly negative reviews should be carefully investigated.
Apps installed from Google Play require authorization to access some or all of your data. This step is an easy way to identify which apps might take more than they want you to believe. While it’s pretty standard for a messaging app to need access to your SMS capabilities and contact book, that flashlight app probably doesn’t need that same information, and will almost certainly use it for advertising or other shady business. With keyboards, an easy way to tell whether the app might be up to no good is to see if it asks for network connectivity. Unless you specifically set up a service like SwiftKey’s cloud-based backup, or your free keyboard uses banner ads instead of costing the user money, a keyboard shouldn’t need to connect to the internet for any reason. This is a red flag that it’s trying to send your info to a server remotely.
Not the flashiest of the bunch, but if you want top-notch Android integration and assurance of total privacy, the Google Keyboard is an excellent choice. Depending on your device, this may be the stock keyboard already, and supports a wide range of languages and almost every Android phone and tablet. If you’re running Android 4.4 or later, you’ll also get built-in emoji support for hundreds of useful symbols and emoticons, and a number of different shortcuts from voice commands to space-aware gesture support. There also aren’t any concerns with third-party developers and your info, just an unadulterated Google experience to go along with their suite of useful apps for Android.
If you’ve ever typed an entire word on your phone’s keyboard without lifting a finger, you have Swype to thank. It led the way from traditional tap-based keyboards to the new method of allowing you to draw a line through all of the letters, and then using autocorrect to figure out which letters were the important ones. Besides the unique typing style, Swype also boasts a number of other useful add-ons such as bilingual support on a single keyboard, audio-response typing, and gesture support. It has a lot of customization options as well, so you can change the theme to match your favorite sports team, or set the key size for the perfect fit to your fingers.