[App Fridays] SwiftKey makes communication more creative, fun, and quick, one tap at a time

21st Sep 2018
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This Microsoft-owned predictive keyboard app, which also lets you type with a swipe, is one of the best typing tools out there, especially on Android.

Are you bored of the inbuilt keyboard on your phone? Or, has it ever restricted your expression? Or, does it look too staid on your glossy six-inch screen? Or, are there not enough cool stickers and GIFs? Or, most importantly, are you a non-English conversationalist and find your existing keyboard limiting?

If the answer to one or all of the above is yes, SwiftKey Keyboard could be what you need.

This predictive mobile keyboard has been in existence for nearly a decade. But, it wasn’t until 2016 when Microsoft acquired SwiftKey for $250 million did it manage to make a splash.

Now, SwiftKey has over a 100 million downloads on Google Play Store and has been rated 4.5 out of 5 by Android users. In 2013, prominent tech portal CNET wrote, “SwiftKey is, quite simply, the best Android keyboard we've used”.

At the time of Microsoft’s acquisition, Harry Shum, Executive VP - Technology and Research, stated,

“In this cloud-first, mobile-first world, SwiftKey’s technology aligns with our vision for more personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands, and directly supports our ambition to reinvent productivity by leveraging the intelligent cloud.”

So, what’s different in SwiftKey? And what makes it such a compelling proposition?

First, it has an extraordinarily smart prediction engine that gets better with each update. It learns your writing style, and, subsequently, helps you type, text and send messages much faster. It even picks up your most frequently used colloquialisms, abbreviations, emojis, stickers, etc.

The app also comes with an AI-powered spell checker, autocorrect, a dedicated number row, swipe-to-type and touch-to-type features, and a predictive emoji and GIF tab that rolled out earlier this year - SwiftKey’s first major update since the Microsoft takeover.

The best part of the app, however, is its availability in 15 Indian languages - a feature that launched in 2014. (Globally, SwiftKey supports typing in over 300 languages.) With the Indian internet going more and more vernacular, SwiftKey’s multilingual capabilities come in handy.

Of course, it isn’t the only keyboard to offer such features — Google’s own Gboard app is available in several local languages too — but, SwiftKey is perhaps the most accurate and easy-to-use regional typing keyboard. It even allows cross-device syncing of your library, adding to the convenience factor.

Let’s dig into the app now.

SwiftKey is a single-screen endless scroll app. The top panel has four features - Languages, Themes, Typing, Account.

You click on ‘Languages’ to choose your preferences. You simply tap on a language to add it to your library. There is an Indian English option too.

Once selected you can scroll up to see “your languages”. At any point, you can enable or disable a selection.

To access the second, and possibly most attractive feature of the app, you go back to the home screen. “Themes” make SwiftKey the beautiful thing it is. You can choose from a selection of themes displayed in Gallery. 

You can also design custom themes by adding images and/or symbols.  

The third, and most important feature of SwiftKey, is Typing. Your chosen settings here determine your overall app experience. A lot of customisation is on offer.

You can determine the keyboard size.

You can choose the elements (number row, accented characters, dedicated emoji key, arrow keys, and so on) you’d like on your keyboard.

In 'Typing & Autocorrect', you can enable or disable transliteration, autocorrect, emoji predictions, auto capitalise, gesture typing, etc.

SwiftKey also allows voice input, thus breaking the entry barriers to the app.

The Clipboard feature allows you to save frequent replies, hashtags, sentences, or any text for that matter. You can delete matter from clipboard at any point.

In Account, you can choose to turn on AI predictions based on your typing history. This is an interesting feature, but might not be needed by everyone. SwiftKey also allows you to back up and sync data across devices.

To check your typing stats, you go back to home screen. SwiftKey offers you insights on the topics you most type about.

It displays your most frequently used emojis, and the number of words you’ve added to the SwiftKey vocabulary.

And finally, there are stats like the number of words SwiftKey has predicted for you, the number of taps it has saved you, and your typing heat map (that displays how you tap on the keyboard).

Should you use SwiftKey?

Heck, yes.

If you want to be more productive, more creative, and more multilingual in your everyday communication, SwiftKey is a suitable keyboard app to have.

Its AI predictions are mostly accurate, the language transliterations are smooth, and emojis, stickers, and themes are aplenty. Those who love gesture typing will enjoy the app, and voice users can have fun too.

There are so many controls and customisations on offer that every user will have a different experience using the app. We tried using Gboard (the default keyboard app on most Android devices) after months of being on SwiftKey, and we struggled.

CNET was right. SwiftKey is indeed the best Android keyboard out there.


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