SwiftKey is definitely one of the most popular alternative keyboard. It even earned the affectionate nickname as mind-reader. But does it worth such a large fanbase? Why mind-reader? Is this it, your keyboard? *Hello? Is it me you are looking for?*
Freemium. All core features are free. IAP for premium themes.
SwiftKey may not get an award for being the first third-party keyboard or brings out completely new features, but despite that, it’s popularity as one of the most popular 3rd party keyboard is unchallengeable, based on my time spent on Reddit and recent Lifehacker hive five. (What, me? Wasting time on Reddit? Pfft. It’s called extensive research.)
But even among the large number of alternative keyboard, SwiftKey is somehow able to attract large number of fans. The question is: does it warrant such a large following? Let’s see.
Unique and Useful Features
SwiftKey had so many features in its disposal but the laundry list of features alone does not make it special. There are some features that differentiate it as heavy-weight champ rather than small potato:
- Multi-language support
- Emoji prediction
Open up SwiftKey and you will see the recently updated default theme. It is subjectively better than previous default theme: subtle, functional and easy on eyes.
While previous version of SwiftKey is limited to just a handful of themes — with the fans crying loudly to the fact that the available handful themes are ugly and silly, SwiftKey now offers more and updated theme option, thanks to its new monetization strategy: freemium with option of premium paid themes.
The layout of the SwiftKey is easily customizable. It has optional dedicated number key and arrow key. The keyboard itself can be set to be floating, or separated to the left and right which is useful for tablet users. In short, it might be one of keyboard that offer more choices customization.
SwiftKey supports 63 languages which by itself is not a great feat as other well-known keyboards are supporting larger numbers than that. In fact, SwiftKey is often criticized precisely because of its lack of languages supported. It only come to support Japanese recently through its beta program while Chinese input is still no where to be seen. Sure, the modelling of both languages may be different enough to provide technical challenge for SwiftKey, but it is a weak excuse at best since its competitors manage to provide for those two languages just fine.
Its only saving grace and probably one of its most unique feature as so far no competitor has able to replicate this feature, is its support for seamlessly switching between 3 languages at the same time, be it in normal peck and tap typing or its Swype-like Flow.
Sure, there are other keyboards that are able to seamlessly switch between languages, but they are capped at two at max. What’s more, the seamless switching not only work for peck and tap typing, but also in Flow. Others may argue you hardly need to switch between 3 languages at same time, but the fact only SwiftKey is able to do it is an worthy achievement.
Correction and Prediction
Next, let’s talk about what makes or breaks a touchscreen keyboard: accuracy. With the clunkiness of touchscreen and inability to separate key, touchscreen users who wished to type quickly are forced to rely on keyboard’s ability to fix character mistakes and guess what the users are trying to communicate.
For users who use peck and tap, SwiftKey is able to handle correction gracefully by converting blubbering mess to coherent sentence.
It prediction ability is nothing to scoff off, too. SwiftKey is capable of guessing accurately the next word user want to type, which makes it appear to be a mind-reader; a testament of its clever algorithm.
As mentioned in passing, SwiftKey has Swype-like gesture typing which is dubbed as Flow. In this regard, SwiftKey capability is not all rosy as it falls short of expectation. SwiftKey needs user to input — or Flow — accurately through each character before it can make an accurate guess. It has less forgiving algorithm than the king of gesture typing, Swype.
For users who use gesture typing as their main typing method, SwiftKey also had one terrible weakness: after a word is input, SwiftKey automatically adds space and shows the prediction the next word instead of correction of current word.
Users who doesn’t Flow accurately will often need to press backspace after a word is input to correct the wrong Flow guess. Combined with its sub-par Flow prediction, these two reasons cause SwiftKey to be unsuitable for users who use Flow as their main input method.
Value for Money
Normally, it is hard to discuss objectively whether an app is well worth the money — simply because there is too much subjectivity as what is considered to be cheap vs. expensive app, and what is the value of an app.
But since SwiftKey has changed its monetization strategy from paid program to freemium, it is definitely cheap (What can be cheaper than free? Pay you to use it? Yeah, dream on). As for value, it is certainly being hold in high regard for much users and reviewer alike.
Moreover, for its free price, SwiftKey offers most of its core features without any restriction. The only reason to pay is to get premium themes, a luxury that’s not needed by most people.
In a way, it is betting on its large following and people who find its product worth paying for — even when there is no reason to pay other than to support the development of SwiftKey.
With its arsenal of useful features and solid prediction, it’s no wonder that SwiftKey is fans favorite. Now that it is free, the biggest barrier for users to try and use it is gone and we can expect to see SwiftKey grow more in usage.
As for me who mainly use gesture typing, SwiftKey may not be my cup of tea or tune of my key. But it will stay on my phone as I continue waiting for SwiftKey to improve. And hopefully, SwiftKey will catch up to my expectation and make me fall in love, some day, in some other time (please don’t be too long). *cue terrible ending song*
Good accuracy and prediction
Fresh new updated theme
Support 3 languages simultaneously
FREE! (for all intent and purpose)
Bad Flow accuracy
Supported language is not large enough
No option to turn off auto-space