I have experimented with replacement keyboards on Android from time to time. Though I had SwiftKey installed for a year, I mostly used it as a regular keyboard.
So it wasn’t a real thrill for me when Apple announced third-party keyboards on iOS 8. I found the iOS keyboard quite good, the design was really good and led to fast and mostly error-free typing.
The problem with most mobile keyboards is text prediction – autocorrect can never get you entirely what you want, and more often than not it was an exercise in frustration. I didn’t find the iOS 7 predictions too bad, but when iOS 8 came out with QuickType, something happened. It seemed like the autocorrect was much more aggressive, and more often frustratingly wrong. So I started looking into third-party keyboards.
Fleksy was my first look, because it was free at release – it is not a huge leap for a new user to start using this keyboard, the keys are in the same spot and you just tap to enter letters. However, this keyboard relies heavily on prediction. Most of the time it does really well, but when it gets it wrong, you need to remember and perform a gesture to “unfix” it, or cycle through alternate replacements. I found this more cumbersome than just using the iOS keyboard and being alert.
SwiftKey was free, and I liked the idea of gesture-based scribble-typing. I had used it before, so it should be a simple switch, right? Well, it was, but it still felt very clumsy. Once again, I hadn’t gained anything, it was just different. I found myself fighting to switch back to the regular iOS keyboard more often.
Now, Swype came to my attention the past day or so, because they made it free. That’s evidently a great way to get me to try something I am skeptical about. Well, right away, I was impressed. Multiple themes, a case-changing keyboard (it shows you the characters in caps when caps is on, etc), nice optional gestures, etc. Mostly though, I liked the comparatively non-aggressive nature of the text suggestions. When an unusual word comes up, the quick type area allows you to dynamically add the word to your personal dictionary. The personal dictionary can be edited at any time to remove accidental additions (or those times you were SURE that’s how it was spelled). It even includes emoji in the autocorrect suggestions! Just type “smile” and there’s a smiley. That may seem slower than picking it, but remember you can swipe over the characters in order to kinda sketch out a little scribble that brings a smile to your keyboard, and maybe even to your face.
On top of all that, there’s a special calculator-style numeric keyboard available under the Swype key, if you want to enter numbers more comfortably.
There’s lots going for this keyboard. Totally worth grabbing for free right now, if the deal is still on, and if not, it still might be a worthwhile investment if it has gone back to its regular 99 cent price.