One of the departments where Android has tended to lag behind iOS is the onscreen keyboard. Notwithstanding Gingerbread’s tweak to the default and numerous worthies like Better Keyboard (our favourite so far), typing on an Android touchscreen is a bit like…well, let’s put it this way, one of the reasons we are such huge fans of the Motorola Milestone and the HTC Desire Z is that they save us from the need of hammering away on those onscreen keys. However, the latest version of SwiftKey, which has just hit the Android Market, might make us change our minds. Hit the jump to find out why. Also Read - Hitman Sniper: The Shadows mobile game announced: Agent 47 is missing
SwiftKey X’s new beta is free (hooray!) and at about 2.9 MB, not really a stiff download (you need to be running Android 2.1 or above to use it), even for us GPRS/EDGE connection users. However, we would advocate stocking up on patience when you get the installation process going. For after you download the app itself, you will need to activate the keyboard and then choose the language you wish to use which means, ho-hum, another download. While we could not see how much the language pack download was, suffice it to say that it took about twice as much time as the app itself on our EDGE connection on the LG Optimus 2x. That done, you will have to log into your Gmail, Twitter and Facebook accounts to give the app access to those in order to predict your writing style. Seems simple enough, but the problem we encountered was that the first step of the installation process was activating the keyboard, and once we did that, there was simply no way of logging into these accounts as the keyboard installation itself was not complete and well, on the Optimus 2x at least, no keyboard popped up. Also Read - Fake apps scam: How to identify fake apps on Android, iOS
So we simply skipped that step, moved on to choose between Precise and Rapid styles of typing – the former for those who tend to watch their words, the latter for those who prefer speed (and more importantly, trust autocorrect) – and completed the installation. We then got back to the settings and asked the keyboard to learn our style from those three sites as well as from our sent messages. By now, with all the logging and permission granting, we must confess we were missing the “install and start using” convenience of something like Better Keyboard.
But all complaints vanished when we started using the keyboard. Yes, the keyboard was spacious and you juggle with formats and looks but we cared not a hoot for that. For, suddenly predictive text was actually working the way we always thought it would – accurately guessing the names of friends and places and even eccentric phrases that I tend to use, thanks to all the integration with mail and social networks. It was even predicting the Hindi phrases I use when chatting with my friends. For instance, one term I often use is “aap bhi?” (a sort of “You too?” or “Et tu?”) – SwiftKey was offering me “bhi” the moment I finished typing “aap” (it offered me “aap” by the moment I had typed “aa”). Yes, there will be those who moan about confidentiality and giving apps access to your social network data, but there have been no complaints about SwiftKey and we must confess we simply do not know how we are going to return to our normal onscreen keyboard after using it.
Come to think of it, we are not. Our advice: Download!