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How the Smartest Android Keyboard Got Even Smarter

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I’ve long recommended SwiftKey as a third-party keyboard for Android (s goog) smartphones, and many others agree. According to the Android Market, the paid version has enjoyed between 100,000 and 500,000 installs, while the free version has seen between a half-million and a million downloads.

The keyboard shows intelligence by predicting the next word before tapping a single letter. But the new SwiftKey X, a private beta version now open to the public, is even smarter. The demos in this video show the improved personalization that’s made possible through the cloud.

The original version is customizable through scanning a user’s SMS messages. In that way, the software can learn how you communicate, then leverage that information for improved word prediction. The new SwiftKey X expands upon that concept by learning from your Gmail, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Yes, you’re giving access that data, but in turn, you receive a more personalized keyboard experience, which can save time. SwiftKey’s privacy policy may help the squeamish in terms of data use:

In relation to our Apps such as SwiftKey, learned language data generated and stored on your computing devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, is never accessed by, or transmitted to us unless you wish to use additional features or services which would require the use of such data. Where we offer any additional services or facilities that do require use of data which might include personal information, such as server-based personalized services, then we will always seek your consent to the use of such data before providing such services or facilities.

By allowing this learning process, word prediction can be even faster than auto-correction, considering you might not have to type any letters in the next word. Using TouchType’s Fluency Prediction Engine, the company says one-third of next words are predicted correctly without any characters typed, and 80 percent of words can be predicted with just two characters.

Another improvement is how SwiftKey X virtually expands the size of the keys most likely to be tapped next. This is akin to how Apple designed the iOS keyboard: the sensor area around the keys most likely to be tapped next is actually expanded. SwiftKey X also supports multiple typing profiles: one for precise typists and one for the fast and furious that rely heavily on auto-correction or prediction. Essentially, these features mean that even the most cramped software keyboard can work for more people because of the intelligence built in to the product.

I’ve installed SwiftKey X on my Nexus One, and there’s no going back to the stock keyboard for me. I’m already used to the word prediction, thanks to the original SwiftKey, but I’m already seeing personalized improvements. Thanks to the cloud and access to my other communication methods, SwiftKey X is pretty good at guessing family names and even the devices I use. I’m sold on it for Android phones and since it’s a no-cost beta, I highly recommend you look at this intelligent phone keyboard.

13 Responses to “How the Smartest Android Keyboard Got Even Smarter”

  1. nice video, and i don’t wanna start a hate war, but they 1000% copied the way apple releases its products, u know, the white background, the way they go this is truly magnificent product, and how they have all the guys speaking. Just something to think about

  2. Worried for the future

    My question is, why do we have to type faster? Are we not supposed to enjoy life the way it is? Typing faster, and in no time at all, simply speaking, just proves how lazy the world has grown. Yes, we all are limited on time between work, family, and whatever else, but we can’t take the 30 seconds to type?

  3. Nice article on a good software. Swift keyboard was my first purchase for my LG Optimus. It was money well spent. LG had turned off word prediction on this model. So in a way this was a compulsory alternative for this phone. I hope existing paid users of this app get a free upgrade.

  4. I use swiftkey and I like it fine, but it has some serious logic flaws that seem so obvious as to make one wonder what the developers are thinking (perhaps this new version addresses them).

    1. It makes no sense that two of the three suggestion words would *ever* be the same (there is almost *always* another word that could be offered, and usually a very obvious one). having two of the three buttons showing the same word when a third word could be offered seems like a flaw so glaring it never would have been released. What could the user benefit possibly be?

    2. you can frequently type multiple letters without the suggestion words changing. I’m obviously not going to pick one – why keep showing me them, when – again – it is usually easy to imagine other suggestions that could show there.

    3. why would it suggest a complex form of a word but make you type the simple form? I try to type “celebrate” and it suggests “celebration” and “celebrating”, but not “celebrate. I have to type the entire word. At the point I get to “celeb”, the suggestions are “Celeb”, “Celeb” (duplicate again – WTF?), and “Celebration”, but still no “celebrate”. When I add another “r” to “celebR”, it updates to suggest “Celebr” (very smart), “celebration”, and “Celebrity”, but I still have to keep typing at least one more letter to get “celebrate” as a suggestion.

    There are MANY examples of this- I see it every day. I could understand where some of the complex logic might struggle occasionally, but there is no excuse for ever showing two of the buttons with the same suggestions on them. That defeats the stated purpose of improved efficiency, and one would think that it would be extremely easy to program it to simply “never show the same suggestion on more than button – ever”. Computers are very good at rules like that :)

  5. Synacksyn

    I tried SwiftKey for a week when I saw an open invite for beta. I went back to Swype myself. After using Swype, having to lift my finger from the touch screen to move to new keys now feels unnatural and is easier for me to do one handed.

  6. Salvatore

    I really like this keyboard! I think it will be perfect with swipe functionality *_* sometimes I find swipe words faster than typing

  7. Swiftkey is easily the best keyboard on Android. I don’t understand why it isn’t bundled instead of Swype on other phones.

    Its text prediction is very accurate because it’s based on user history.


  8. PacoBell

    If this keyboard has the ability to read my Gmail, why isn’t it in the permissions manifest? Did the Swiftkey team kludge their own methods instead of using the proper API?

    • By default, the application doesn’t have access to your Gmail (nor Twitter or Facebook, for that matter). Users have to provide that access within the application as shown in the screenshot where I enabled SwiftKey X to have access to my Facebook account. However, the app does have access to your SMS upon install, which is why that shows in the permissions manifest.