At first glance, SwiftKey ($4, free two-week trial) looks much like the other keyboard app options in the market. But the keys are easy to read, and they bear numbers and symbols that you can quickly access by long-pressing. The program also offers one-click access to period, comma, and question mark, which saves a lot of time. If you have Android 2.1 or later, you can use SwiftKey’s speech input key that works incredibly well.
Usually when I long-press the E key, I just want the number 3; but with this app, up pops not just 3, but also an E with all its various accents as options. This would be great if I typed in non-English languages more often–but since I don’t, it’s just one more click I have to perform before I get to my 3. It would be nice to be able to disable the special character options, but that’s a minor gripe. SwiftKey also lets you customize the duration of a long-press.
But where SwiftKey really sets itself apart from the competition is in its text prediction. SwiftKey’s text prediction doesn’t just do the next letter you might be looking for, it does the remainder of the whole next word you’re looking for! And it’s vastly more accurate than I expected.
SwiftKey, does an excellent job of learning the way you type. When you first set up the app, it asks you if it can scan all of your text message history (it doesn’t send that information anywhere). Say yes, and the text prediction will already be good when you first start using SwiftKey. The spelling correction function is far better than on most other keyboard apps, too.
A Usage Stats button in SwiftKey’s setup screen lets you track how much time and effort you’ve saved. According to my usage stats, SwiftKey made me 20 percent more efficient than I would have been without its text prediction efforts.
More often than not, the prediction bar correctly guessed my next word after just one or two letters, at which point I simply hit the space key to accept it. You can even use SwiftKey’s beefy auto-correct engine when you’re typing on your phone’s hardware keyboard. Or you can choose to disable auto-correct.
The app can recognize a few gestures. Swipe up to capitalize a word. Swipe left to delete the last word you typed. Swipe down to hide the keyboard. The program lets you adjust its sensitivity to gestures, too.
SwiftKey still has a few kinks to work out. Occasionally, it messes things up when I’m inputting a name in a compose window (for text messages or Gmail), and every now and then auto-correct will add a second name. Also, the app’s “prototype” multitouch (for Android 2.0 and higher) needs improvement.
While sliding keyboards such as Swype and SlideIT seem to grab all of the headlines, it’s cool to see an app take a completely different approach to boosting speed and accuracy–and do both very well. When it comes to accuracy, SwiftKey absolutely murders sliding keyboards.