Keyboards. Something we use, literally, every single day. From our computers, at work or at home, to our phones and tablets, everywhere in between, they’re the go-to mode of input for text. Period.
But, considering how vital they are for our communication in today’s day and age, they haven’t really changed much over the last 40 years or so. And frankly, they haven’t really needed to for our computers and laptops, at least –rows for keys within reach of each hand, some practice, and next thing you know, you’re banging out novels the size of War & Peace during your lunch break.
IBM Selectric II from 1971
Enter the physical keyboard-less mobile phone movement. I can remember when touchscreens were first showing up on phones and you’re phone either had a keyboard at the bottom of it, or had a slide-out one hidden underneath it –the idea of not having that physical keyboard while mobile texting and electronic mailing was getting more and more popular was completely absurd.
But, as touchscreen technology advanced, that dependance on the physical keyboard soon faded (sorry Blackberry) and soon our phones ditched their keyboards in favor of on-screen versions.
Fast-forward to today – when app stores are booming and our dependance on typing on our phones hasn’t waned – and it’s no wonder that when looking for “keyboard” in the Android Play Store, you’ll regularly see keyboard apps (even ridiculous ones) with millions, if not 10’s of millions of downloads.
Over 1,000,000 downloads. Seriously.
So, how do you decide on which are the best Android keyboards for you to even take the time to download and try?
Well, I’ve waded through the ridiculously over saturated app category that is keyboards to see if I could pull to the top 7 of the best keyboards for Android. Take a look and please feel free to comment on here and let me know if there are others you think should be added and why. I’ll try and keep this updated as best as I can going forward so others can at least have a good jumping-off-point. Ready?
Best Keyboards for Android
To judge these, I found which ones were recommended the most by others on the web, checked out the comments on each app for complaints, praise, etc. and downloaded them myself to try out. I based my results on ones that I would want to use on a daily basis, were fast enough to keep up with my typing (seriously some had a problem), and what – if any – features they had that I thought made communication better in some way. So, here’s the cream of the crop in no particular order. (Again, please add to this in the comments and I’ll try and update them here.)
Ok, with over 100 million downloads, there’s got to be something to it, right? If we’re being honest… there is.
If you’re looking for a fast, responsive keyboard that’s minimalistic and is just good for typing with no bells and whistles, this is one you should try. It’s free, it comes from Google themselves and has that huge user base I previously mentioned so, it’ll stay up to date more so than most. Oh, and did I mention: fast and free.
Swiping the keys is included automatically, which is great for one-handed typing.
Good prediction thanks to Google knowing EVERYTHING ABOUT YOU, er, I mean, their vast language database.
For those creeped out by big brother and the like; it’s Google’s own keyboard.
Swype is the original keyboard to have the ability to swipe your fingers along the keys to input text (my preferred method when using one hand). Thing is, most other keyboards have “borrowed” this feature and put it into their own keyboards so you’d think Swype doesn’t have much going for it now.
But you’d be wrong.
It’s still one of the fastest at using the swiping motion of text (as you’d expect the OG to be), the key layout is convenient, and it’s one of the few keyboards with voice to text done by Dragon Diction, which, arguably, is one of the best voice to text systems out right now for consumers. On top of that, it’s also only $0.99 but has a free trial so you can see if it’s worth a dollar to you.
Original swiping keyboard –had a long time to perfect it.
Great voice to text recognition.
Minimalistic design, simple.
Not bogged down by a ton of bells and whistles.
Animations for key presses make it feel a little laggy.
Definitely not as fast as Google’s.
One of the most popular keyboards on Android, SwiftKey used to actually be above the Google Keyboard in terms of total installs and even though it’s lost that top position, it’s still loved by millions.
It’s very similar to Swype in a lot of ways, but it’s real claim to fame – and why it’s user base is so loyal – is the “fluency engine”, a fancy name for it’s text prediction system. Regardless of the fancy name, many people swear by it and it’s ability to know how you compose your sentences and what words are more likely to be coming next, etc. It does this by watching for patterns as you type and by connecting to your social networks to analyze how you type on there (you don’t have to enable the social networks, but for the engine to really do its thing –it’s recommended).
It’s a ton of fun –especially cause it’s a relatively new concept and most people are pleasantly confused when they get a looping animation of a cat and Shaq wiggling still. It did get me wondering though, is there a keyboard on Android that could send gifs as easily?
Turns out, one of the most popular keyboards for Android added the ability to easily send gifs from their keyboard (did they watch my video??). Fleksy, known for it’s clever gesture system to help you type faster, which is enough for you to download it and try it, also added gifs, so now you HAVE to try it.
What are you waiting for? I said clever gestures and gifs. Go. Download.
Clever gesture system makes it quick to type once you get the hang of it.
Did I mention… GIFS!
A tad laggy.
Not as smooth or as fast as Google’s –noticing a pattern here and why Google’s keyboard has so many downloads. In the other keyboards defense though, they have a lot more functionality and those features are most likely causing the perceived delay.
No Swipe Input!
One word. Themes.
If you are the type of person who loves to theme things on your device (whether it’s Frozen’s Elsa or the NY Giants, whatever tickles your fancy), then this is the keyboard for you.
You can install it then simply search the Play Store for “Go Keyboard Theme” and you’ll be presented with tons of them –some of which even have over a million installs on their own (see the ridiculous gold one in the image above).
On top of themes, everything is customizable, from the layout, to the background, fonts, and even sounds. As for the actually text input? It’s actually pretty smooth and even has the Swype swipe input method built in. It’s free in the Play Store, but some of the themes might cost you a buck or so.
Smooth input, not as laggy feeling as some of the others.
Has swiping input for better one-handed operation.
Feels a little, how do you say, spammy. While I remember it used to look way worse — it still has little notifications in it that tell you when there are new themes available. And these don’t go away until you click on them. You’ll have to try it and see if it bothers you or not.
Technically on Android, this isn’t a keyboard (but it is on iOS). It’s a set of photos that are created with your likeness but it works the same way as an emoji keyboard so I figure it loosely fits “keyboard”. Right? Sort of? Ok, maybe not, but it does add some communication functionality and is used in conjunction with a keyboard so I’m feel like it can be on here. OKAY?!
It’s free and after an initial setup of creating your own likeness one time, it replicates “you” in a bunch of poses and themed images to send as if they were emoji. If you’re curious about the entire process, head to my How to Turn Yourself Into an Emoji Video and see for yourself.