The top 5 best gesture (swipe) keyboards for Android

The top 5 best gesture (swipe) keyboards for Android
Text input is one of the most important tasks to get right on a mobile device which means that using the right keyboard is extremely important. If you touch type with two thumbs there are plenty of keyboards to choose from. If you dictate your text, that will just depend on your platform. But, if you love gesture or swipe typing, there are only a few really great options to choose from on Android.

While the dream app -- a keyboard that does gesture typing and includes GIF search -- doesn't yet exist on Android (because at least for now Google's Gboard is iOS-only and GIF keyboards like Slash and Fleksy don't support swipe typing), there are a few keyboards for Android that offer the right mix of swiping, autocorrect, prediction, and customization to be great options for those of you who don't particularly like touch typing. 

We'll say that any of the following options are great and it's really just a matter of relatively small differences that could decide which one is better for you than another. 

The free all-around option


Google Keyboard


This choice shouldn't be much of a surprise. Free is often a major feature of Google products. The Google Keyboard doesn't offer nearly as much in terms of customization as other keyboard options, but Google's artificial intelligence makes up for that. A competitor like Swype will make a big marketing point of the fact that it will add new words and improve based on the usage of the crowd, but no one has a crowd to draw on like Google does. Google's autocorrect and predictions don't just get better as more people use the Google Keyboard but as more people use Google Search and other Google products where data can be collected. 

Functionally, this means that Google will almost always know the word you and, or can learn it very quickly. While some other apps rely on a certain word hitting a threshold of usage by the cloud before adding it in (as with Swype's "living keyboard" learning), Google knows it anyway. For example, Google was the only keyboard we tried that got "Occam's" (as in Occam's razor) on the first swipe attempt. Other keyboards needed to be taught first. 

In terms of predictions, there are other options that are better, but Google's Keyboard proves itself to be the best in learning new words. It will draw from your contacts as well as your other Google usage to figure out better predictions. And, Google is one of the few apps that can learn uncommon names for dictation as well which is extremely nice. 


The multilingual predictors


SwiftKey


If you're someone who regularly types in multiple languages in the same conversation or values being able to stop typing all together and just rely on the predictions, SwiftKey is probably the keyboard for you. SwiftKey is quite good at getting the right word on first swipe and being able to back that up by predicting the next word, meaning instead of another swipe you can just tap the word you need. 

SwiftKey also has a substantial theme store and amount of customization options. Some of the themes will cost you, but the app itself is free. So, really, the choice between this and the Google Keyboard is whether you value customization over learning speed. 


SwiftKey Neural



SwiftKey Neural is an alpha level app that pushes even further towards better predictions. Instead of the traditional options, SwiftKey Neural (as the name implies) uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to offer better predictions for the next word or two that you might want. Unfortunately, while predictions are better, it's a little harder to recommend this version of SwiftKey over the standard. 

While Neural certainly offers much better prediction and could mean much less typing overall, it struggles with basic words while swiping input. For example, Neural didn't even know the word "Brooklyn", which was surprising because we have never come across another keyboard that failed on a word as basic as that. 


The legacy stalwart


Swype


Whereas SwiftKey can let you type in three different languages at the same time, Swype only allows for two. However, Swype is a classic that has been around forever and has learned a lot in that time. Swype has a bit of an edge on the competition in terms of autocorrect and will get the word you want more often on the first swipe, but it's dictionary isn't as big (as noted earlier). Predictions in Swype might not be as good, but a cool feature is the option to swipe from the Swype key to invoke certain gestures. For example, swiping from the Swype key to A or S, will give you select all or search, respectively. 

The interesting wrinkle in Swype is that it is the only option that doesn't rely on Google for dictation. Instead, Swype uses Dragon Dictate for voice recognition. In our testing, Dragon was a solid alternative although it wasn't perfect. Where Google could learn uncommon names for dictation, Dragon couldn't. But, a plus for Dragon dictate is that it offers options for advanced punctuation dictation. So, instead of just the usual period, comma, question mark, and exclamation point, Dragon also understood dictation for open/close parenthesis as well as quote/end quote. 

There is also a quick gesture (swipe from the Swype button to the Dragon flame button) to launch the Dragon Mobile Assistant, which is a bonus if you happen to like that assistant. But, the Dragon Mobile Assistant is markedly less useful than the newly dubbed Google assistant (formerly just Google). So, make of that what you will.

Swype also offers a pretty well stocked theme store, though you have to pay 99 cents for the full version of the app in order to get access to that before paying for any of the themes. 

The customizeable up-and-comer


Chrooma


Chrooma is an interesting newcomer to the alternative keyboard market. While its swipe accuracy can rival that of the Google Keyboard on occasion, its real claim to fame is in its customization options and extra features. Arguably the coolest feature of Chrooma is that the keyboard will change color based on the app you're using. So, the keyboard will be dark blue when you're in Facebook, yellow in Google Keep, and deep green in WhatsApp. 

Additionally, it has tons of customization options for the keyboard style and layout, including one-handed modes, as well as gestures for usual typing functions as well as to do a Google Now search with what you've typed (although that gesture didn't always work in our testing). 

Chrooma is free, but is the most expensive to open up the full "pro" feature set at $2.49 to enable multiple languages, custom keyboard layouts, custom colors and fonts, preference sync, and automatic access to all future new features. 


Warning


GO Keyboard


Some lists will recommend the GO Keyboard, and as far as functionality goes, we can't argue with that pick too much. It has good swiping and prediction (though not the best) and it's got nice features around customization and stickers (where the problems start). That said, we couldn't even be bothered to try it out because the app flashed three ads at us just while poking through the Settings menu. That's just obnoxious and unnecessary so you can try out GO if you want, but it seems like the devs there may have fallen too far to the dark side of in-app purchases. As is, the picks above are better options all-around. 

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14 Comments

1. aasifmaqsood

Posts: 29; Member since: Sep 30, 2015

swipe keyboards?? but why fleksy pic??

2. Landon

Posts: 1245; Member since: May 07, 2015

I tried Google Keyboard but ended up going back to SwiftKey. The !,.? icons are easier to get to.

3. jibraihimi

Posts: 808; Member since: Nov 29, 2011

Does swiftkey still lags, or have devs. able to iron out all the issues it used to have.....i used to use it regularly before, but stopped due to regular lag in swiftkey, as it used to hang for few seconds after sending msgs in whatsapp, and it was really very annoying.......

5. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Yea I think they've fixed it all now. Using it on my Z5c and there is no problems with it. I remember a year or so ago it used to be a complete disaster.

13. Landon

Posts: 1245; Member since: May 07, 2015

I agree with Finalflash. It doesn't lag at all anymore. Plus I like having the custom theme option, as well as a number row option up top.

4. SupermanayrB

Posts: 1188; Member since: Mar 20, 2012

Honestly Sammy's keyboard works for me.

6. Pitrich

Posts: 239; Member since: Apr 13, 2016

TouchPal is hands down the best

7. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

You should have made a unique category and added Microsoft's wordflow to this list because it's cool and pretty good.

8. MichaelHeller

Posts: 2734; Member since: May 26, 2011

Word Flow is iOS only, so it can't be included here anyway. I'd love to try it out if I could.

9. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

ah, my fault lol

10. technitude

Posts: 263; Member since: Dec 19, 2013

I didn't like the way SwiftKey handled bilingual swiping. They need to work on that. Google's keyboard has recently fixed their dictionaries. I think it is almost the best. The only thing is that I have 3 languages loaded, and in terms of intuitiveness, it sometimes assumes I am swiping a different language than what I had previously been using. I wish I would not see Spanish words suggested, when I've been typing German or English. So, I think the intuitivity can be improved.

11. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

My stock Cyanogen OS keyboard has been more than suitable for my needs and works great with swipe gestures. Haven't bothered changing it...

12. tyer205

Posts: 41; Member since: Jun 16, 2014

i like Voice SMS

14. An.Awesome.Guy

Posts: 636; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

Just saying Multiling O keyboard is the keyboard that have most languages, over 200 languages

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