Ever been frustrated at a laggy virtual keyboard? Thanks to years of experience with hardware keyboards, my typing fingers are blazing fast, and many on-screen keyboards just can’t keep up. On top of that, the stock keyboard is pretty bland, and the auto-correct isn’t so correct! I’m sure I’m not the only one: I wanted to say something, the built-in guess was terrible, and without a thought I sent that text. Whoops.
But there are a lot of keyboards out there, and maybe you’ve used so many different ones that the perfect match feels as evasive as a unicorn.
In that case, rejoice! SwiftKey X has been revamped and is here to ease your texting, tweeting, emailing and posting troubles. Available for handset and tablet, it works with a library of your previous input – based on your texts and emails – so that it can guess your next word.
And believe me, this thing does its homework…
Try It Out
SwiftKey offers two versions: free and paid. The Android Market 15-minute refund window isn’t really enough to fully test a new keyboard, so the free version is perfect for trying it out. If you like it and want more options, you can upgrade to the paid version.
The keyboard takes the place of your current virtual keyboard, with optional arrows for easier and more accurate editing (very useful considering the trend of newer handsets not to include a trackpad). Adding arrows naturally enlarges the space the keyboard takes up, but you can choose to enlarge it further still, therefore increasing the size of the buttons, allowing easier typing.
An Artificially Intelligent Keyboard
The very responsive keys seem to remember where your fingers consistently touch. At the moment I have mine set to only remember how I type in texts because I type differently in emails than I do in texts between friends and I would rather it remember the way I text. This makes it easier for me because between friends is mostly slang and I don’t need it predicting that into my emails.
It can also remember how you type in your Facebook posts, on Twitter, and in your blog (via RSS feeds). This means that it stores whatever quirky words you use in its dictionary. But even more impressively, it also detects what common phrases you type, so it can predict the word you’re most likely to write next – like a twin brother completing your sentences. In my experience this has been an amazing feature and has been eerily accurate; sometimes I find myself questioning why I even thought of using any other word!
This feature does not significantly affect your internal or external storage of your phone, like one would think. It relies on a “heatmap“‘ of what keys your fingers hit the most, therefore tuning itself to your typing style.
The only issue in this is spacing; if you have the option enabled where the space bar automatically enters the default next word, it can throw you off if you intended just to insert a space. This prediction is very accurate and works well with emails and contact names as well. The trick with this is that the more the keyboard is used the more it remembers and can offer you.
You’re not stuck with the default color scheme of the keyboard; there are different themes to choose from. I’m currently using the “Pumpkin Theme”, partly because it was released around Halloween but mainly because I like the color orange.
As you can see from the screenshot, you can choose a typing style – very rapid, or more precise – so that it can make predictions more suited to the way you type.
Talk to Your Keyboard
No need to fear: the voice options from the stock keyboard are still available, and boy are those handy.
The voice commands are located in the quick settings via the SwiftKey icon, allowing both quick editing and quick text insertion. The voice recognition works very well and is (not surprisingly) just as precise as the voice search built into Android OS.
The full landscape keyboard can be made very large, using much of the screen real estate while relocating the arrow keys to the side. Without a doubt this is still the fastest method to type with this keyboard; with mine set on the “rapid” setting I can type at a rather quick pace.
The landscape mode is most useful when writing a good amount of text, as for an email or SMS novel, while portrait mode is more for quick texts and Facebook comments.
The average user can live without SwiftKey on their device, but for those who tweet a few times a day, post on Facebook, write emails or just send a ton of texts, this is a fantastic time-saver.
I have tried approximately fifteen different types of keyboards on my phone, and SwiftKey X has outperformed all of them hands-down. The AI-based prediction is a definite benefit and works well, but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s all there is to the keyboard; it’s wonderfully designed and is great to use even without touching auto-correct. It doesn’t experience lag and can keep up with my fairly fast-paced key strokes. The keyboard can be minimized with a simple swipe, making it easier to view whatever text box is being typed in to.
I have and would continue to recommend this keyboard to any Android user as well as anyone who tries it, i would think, would recommend it as well.