Better Keyboard from Better Android (makers of Open Home, to name just one of many) is an enhanced software keyboard for Android phones. Android Market is full of replacement keyboards, but Better Keyboard benefits from experience. It’s been on the Market since Spring of 2009, and has been through too many updates to count in that time. The good news is that it’s paid off.
Better Keyboard replaces your native on-screen Android keyboard, but it offers some great enhancements. The first thing you’ll notice is speed and accuracy. At this writing, Android’s native keyboard still does not support multitouch. Better Keyboard does (in Android 2.0 and higher), and that gives you a real speed boost. You don’t have to lift one thumb off the screen before your other thumb touches the next key. It’s noticeable, and it’s great.
Better Keyboard’s accuracy has grown by leaps and bounds, too. It definitely seems like I hit the key I want much more consistently than with the native keyboard. The keys seem bigger, somehow, and easier to hit. Better Keyboard’s auto-correct is very good, too. It regularly knows what word you want even when you’re only half-done typing it. In the newest updates, it’s also easier than ever to add words to the dictionary.
Other speed enhancements: You can swipe left to right to switch to the symbols screen. Swipe right to left, and it changes to a compact qwerty (think BlackBerry Pearl). The compact qwerty isn’t my favorite thing, but some folks like it, and I’m sure they’ll be glad to see it. You can also long-press on a key and get the symbol behind it. Very nice. And, thankfully, it has a speech input key (Android 2.1 and above) that really saves time.
If I sound surprised, it’s because this keyboard was once abysmal. It was slow and inaccurate, the auto-correct was bad, and the keyboard crashed all the time. The developers have clearly been hard at work, though, and it now works incredibly well. Another nice feature is that you can choose from literally hundreds of skins to download (mostly for free) from the market to customize how Better Keyboard looks. Been dying for a keyboard with your favorite sports team’s colors? Someone has almost certainly made one already.
This is a very good keyboard and is certainly well ahead of Android’s native keyboard. For two-thumb typing in landscape mode, it’s the best. That said, when you type with one thumb in portrait mode, sliding keyboards like Swype or SlideIT seem a lot faster to me, even if they are less accurate. In a perfect world, I’d like to be able to use Better Keyboard when in landscape, and SlideIT or Swype when in portrait. Until then, when accuracy counts and I still need speed, I’ll be using Better Keyboard.