Android keyboard app shoot-out - Fleksy, Minuum, Swiftkey, and Swype battle for glory

Developer: NuanceDownload: Android
Genre: KeyboardPrice: Free / $3.99

Developed by the artificial intelligence experts at Nuance, mostly known for building the backbone of Siri, Swype is one of the most powerful keyboard apps out there. It boasts outstanding platform compatibility and the bragging rights to being the first one to let users swipe instead of tap characters. The novel typing method caught on and is still one of the app's main strengths. Here's how the Android version fares today.

1. Look and feel

Swype has a safe approach - visually, it closely follows the familiar Google keyboard layout, while building on its functionally. The customizations extend to choosing one of 15 themes, four of which seem to be modeled after the top four US carriers' brand colors. There's the Red theme for Verizon customers, the Cloud (blue and gray) for AT&T loyals, the Sunrise (yellow) theme for Sprint subscribers, and Magenta for the Un-carrier crowd.

The keyboard is dense with shortcuts. Next to each symbol is painted a smaller one, and you will have some trouble seeing it on some of the darker themes. Instead of switching to a numbers keyboard, long-press on the upper row keys, and you'll get numbers. Long-press on the a, and you'll get a '@', along with all the variations of the character you could possibly need. Or disregard pressing, and just swipe them towards the space-bar. It's convenient. And all the swiping you'll be doing looks and feels great - it's smooth and responsive. It's like navigating a literal line of thought across the keys.

2. Control efficiency

Being a powerful keyboard app, Swype lets you have four input and control methods at your disposal - seamlessly and all in the same time. There's typing, swiping, gesture controls, and voice dictation. The typing doesn't feel any better or worse than the stock Google keyboard, but having quick access to characters is a welcome bonus. Swiping is Swype's bread and butter, and is quite the magical way to enter characters. The only thing that could stop you from using it is if you enjoy typing on your touchscreen more than continuously swiping on it. The gesture controls are neatly explained in the app's 'Gestures' menu, and also appear in the form of tips as you type. They are a natural part of Swype, as they are literally about swiping from one key to another. They give you quick and logical access to editing and number keyboards, punctuation, cut/copy/paste features, and language switching. It's a well thought out system for sure, but it does have a learning curve to it. Finally, there's Dragon voice dictation. Nuance's voice recognition technology is quite advanced and dictating none-too-exotic words is a breeze. However, Dragon might not always know where to put proper capitalization and punctuation.

3. Typing efficiency

Typing in Swype is an easy, pleasant experience. The word replacement accuracy is great, and the swiping engine yields mostly the desired words, which seems quite magical indeed, as you draw all those weird shapes, twists and turns on the keyboard. It's not only that, though. The automatic insertion of spaces and capital letters is a godsend, and the swipe-based gestures make it very easy and quick to insert symbols and punctuation marks. Swype also has Fleksy-like integration with Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter, pulling new words and contact names out of their social bubbles. That, and the 'Living Language' component, which automatically updates the dictionary with very popular words, ensure a satisfying degree of success in world replacement.

4. Misc features

Swype is a workhorse keyboard that doesn't have the room to party with badges and emoji. Yes, emoji seemed a bit too much to ask for, it seems. But the keyboard does have something to show its competitors. It has 'Next word prediction' which aims to read your mind based on what text you previously entered; 'Smart Editor', which underlines any words that might seem incorrect. It also has the ability to backup and sync your dictionary, which works over cellular connection as well. There's also the option to split the keyboard in two, in both portrait and landscape modes - a feature LG eagerly 'borrowed' for the LG G3.


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