By Ryan Scott | 03-04-2013 | 6:30PM
Finding the perfect touchscreen keyboard is a much trickier proposition than many people suspect. It sounds silly, right? What's the big difference? They're all keyboards! Everybody knows how to use those! You hit a button, and the letter/number/symbol appears on your screen! But touchscreens complicate things in their own special way: perhaps the virtual keyboard is too big for your fingers; perhaps whatever predictive text engine that powers the thing doesn't make very good guesses about what you're typing. While this has provided us with hours of amusement from sites like Damn You Auto Correct, it's not very conducive to getting stuff done.
The good news is that Google's stock keyboard is pretty decent (more so in recent Android OS updates). The great news is that you can do even better: As of its latest update, the SwiftKey Keyboard app is, bar none, the best virtual keyboard you could possibly install on an Android device.
I've got two excellent reasons why you should consider forking over the measly four bucks for SwiftKey. The first is SwiftKey's longstanding claim to fame: Its amazing predictive text engine. It can (if you wish) poll your email, your text messages, and your various social media accounts to learn how you type. And it constantly learns (very efficiently, I might add) from how you use it. SwiftKey files away whatever weird, nonstandard words you're fond of, and (more importantly) learns what you're most likely to screw up -- and what you most likely meant to type. It's a pretty awesome feat of technical wizardry.
The second reason I love SwiftKey is for its swipe-based Flow keyboard. This isn't for everyone -- I have plenty of touch-typing friends who hate it -- but SwiftKey's Flow setting lets you rapidly type words by gliding your finger from character to character, automatically inserting spaces each time you lift your finger. The aptly named Swype was the first mobile keyboard to make it onto mobile users' radars with this typing style, but it seems stuck in eternal beta, while SwiftKey's now handily outclassed it (not to mention it's actually available on Google Play).
And SwiftKey's just a high-quality product, to boot. It's got lots of nice theme options for users who want a colorful, skinned keyboard, it supports a heck of a lot of different languages, and you can tweak everything from spacebar behavior to long-press function key duration. And if you don't believe me, you can try a free one-month demo -- not that it'll take you that long to become a die-hard SwiftKey convert.
Score: 9.5 out of 10
Price: free demo, or $3.99 for full version
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