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Smartphone keyboards have come a long way since the ridiculously tiny buttons on the original BlackBerry phones Living with a BlackBerry: Lame Duck or Genuine Android Alternative? Living with a BlackBerry: Lame Duck or Genuine Android Alternative? The new BlackBerry Z10 is certainly impressive – but how does using it compare with using a new Android or Windows Phone handset? I decided to find out. Read More .

Nonetheless, despite the huge leaps forward in quality, some people still aren’t satisfied with the stock offering. There’s now a huge array of third-party keyboards to choose from, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

With the ever-increasing selection, we take a look at some of the best replacement keyboards for Android.

Why Would You Want to Change?

Before assessing which is the best alternative keyboard MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard? MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard? In this follow-up to our post from 2011 featuring 6+ fantastic Honeycomb keyboards, I’d like to take a good hard look at four of the most popular and well-regarded sliding keyboard. Call it a “keyboard... Read More , we need to understand why you might want to change.

In fact, there are a litany of reasons to look for a replacement: buttons in unusual and irregular places, poor handling of autocorrect, strange responses to touch, alternative international layouts, and the size of the buttons — to name a few.

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It’s not difficult to change the keyboard, so if you frequently find yourself frustrated by the default one, it’s certainly worth testing out a few third-party options.

They are all downloadable from the Google Play Store, and you can change it by simply going Settings > Language and Input > Current Keyboard (the exact terminology may vary slightly depending on which version of Android you are running and which phone you have).

So, which is the best?

Google Keyboard (free)

Make no mistake, the stock Google keyboard is now as good as anything else on the market. It’s picked up ideas from some of the foremost third-party offerings and incorporated them into its own version.

Aesthetically, it now has a new Material Design makeover Craving Some Material Design? Download These Great Android Apps Craving Some Material Design? Download These Great Android Apps Android 5.0 Lollipop is here, but to get the full effect, you need apps that stay true to the Material Design philosophy. We can help you find the best of them. Read More so it neatly matches the rest of the Android Lollipop experience Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop: What It Is And When You'll Get It Android 5.0 Lollipop is here, but only on Nexus devices. What exactly is new about this operating system, and when can you expect it to arrive on your device? Read More , while features-wise it’s bursting at the seams.

It supports gesture typing (swiping) for both individual words and entire sentences, a dictionary that learns words as you type them, built-in text expansion (letting you set up “text shortcuts” for long words that you use regularly), personalized predictive text, and speech-to-text. That’s not to mention the dictionaries for 25 different languages and the multiple international layouts.

Fleksy (Free with In-App Purchases)

A minimalist style, artistic themes, and lots of features help make Flesky one of the best keyboards available.

It starts you on a free trial, but simply syncing with your Google account unlocks the free version completely. You can buy premium themes at any time for $1.99-$2.99, including branded ones such as Frozen and The Hunger Games or more creative ones like a “chameleon” that changes according to each app.

It includes typical options for customization like different keyboard layouts and different colors for the row of numbers, but it also has several unique features that make it stand out. These include the ability to make the keyboard invisible, keys that adjust themselves based on your typing preferences, and awards and badges to encourage you to learn about all the options.

On the downside, it’s primarily designed for tap-typists, so if you prefer swiping it might not be the best choice for you.

MessagEase (Free)

Before we go any further with this one, it’s important to make one thing very clear: this is not a traditional QWERTY keyboard. Instead, it blends old-school pre-smartphone era keyboards with a modern twist.

While the lack of a QWERTY keyboard might come as a shock to first-time users, the layout is actually designed for speed and accuracy, and works surprisingly well.

The most commonly used letters are placed on 9 large keys, with the other letters being activated by making sliding gestures from those keys.

On their listing on the Google Play Store, they claim it is possible to type up to 82 words per minute when using it. By contrast, Swype’s users average 50 per minute, and most tap typists will average even less.

Swype ($0.99)

Swype is the original granddad of gesture-typing keyboards, and we’ve reviewed it extensively Swype Keyboard 1.6 Updates With Bilingual Support, Customizable Layouts Swype Keyboard 1.6 Updates With Bilingual Support, Customizable Layouts Nuance has enhanced Swype Keyboard with plenty of new features. One of the biggest features in Swype 1.6 is the ability to type in two languages at the same time. Bilingual support is also offered. Read More . To not include it in this list would be extremely remiss.

It claims to be “the most accurate keyboard on the planet”, and as a result of its longevity and popularity, it now comes preloaded on a high number of Android devices. It holds the Guinness World Record for the “Fastest Time to Type a Text Message”, and has an impressively large user-base of more than 250 million people.

Since launch, it has added crowdsourced dictionaries, more customization options, text-to-speech dictation, and even split-keyboard options.

Minuum (Free for 30 days, $3.20 Paid)

Some people still pine for the days of tiny BlackBerry keyboards. This is the offering that comes closest to recreating that, but it offers a much higher accuracy at the same time.

The entire keyboard is compressed into a tiny row at the bottom of the screen, leaving you with more screen real estate to see what exactly you’re responding to. It can be expanded into a traditional-sized keyboard for those that need it.

It’s heavily based around predictive text, so if you’re a swipe-typist, you should probably give it a miss — though given that it’s still being heavily developed, it’s very possible that methods to include other typing styles will be included in future releases.

SwiftKey (free)

SwiftKey is another longstanding Android keyboard that’s been at the forefront of the sector since its launch in the summer of 2010.

For a long time it was significantly better than Google’s default offering, though as we noted at the start, that difference is now negligible. Nonetheless, it still comes pre-installed on a wide range of Android devices.

Its biggest attraction is its “fluency engine” — a predictive text assistant that uses old messages to learn about your writing style and thus correct and predict text input with an unrivaled level accuracy.

The keyboard itself is free, but you’ll need to pay for additional themes.

ai.type (Free and $3.90 Paid)

ai.type styles itself as being one of the most full-featured and customizable alternative keyboards available.

Of its most unique and most useful features is the ability to adjust the size of the keyboard on the screen by simply sliding it up and down while you are writing. This has a lot of advantages — we all know how annoying it is when you can’t see what you’re replying to because your keyboard is covering it.

It’s fast and responsive — two vital ingredients of a successful third-party offering — while the extensive customizable options will make you feel like you’re using you own exclusive layout that’s completely different from anyone else’s.

Your Choices?

Which of the keyboards listed have you used? Do you prefer a more traditional approach to typing, or are you itching to get away from QWERTY keyboards on your device A History of Keyboard Layouts, Is QWERTY Lagging Behind? A History of Keyboard Layouts, Is QWERTY Lagging Behind? QWERTY is over 100 years old. It's outdated and outclassed by several alternatives, yet it's still the most popular keyboard layout in the world. How did we get here? Read More ?

Have you had lengthy experience with any of the non-traditional keyboards we mentioned, or are you happy with Google’s stock offering?

Let us know your favorites and your thoughts in the comments section below.

  1. Chris Hoffman
    December 13, 2015 at 4:26 am

    I seem to gravitate to A.I.type. I need a keyboard that works through TeamViewer with corrections and suggestions, which knocks out a lot of them.

  2. mukesh suthar
    June 14, 2015 at 5:31 am

    Best Keyboard is Swiftkey Keyboad its free and many customization, no lagging, Using for last 2 years,

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      Have you tried many others Mukesh?

  3. Ravenswood Cadavre
    June 13, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    I've always used the Big Button Keyboard ( https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bigbuttons&hl=en ). The problem with most keyboards is that in portrait mode, the keys are too skinny to hit accurately. The Big Button keyboard gets around this by rearranging them a bit. They're still close enough to the QWERTY layout that you can find the keys by looking where you expect to find them, but they're wider and easier to hit accurately.

  4. Sudesh Kumar Agrawal
    June 10, 2015 at 2:53 pm

    Apparently the paid version and the free version of Swype are the same. Confirmed by customer support too.
    I would choose Swype over SwiftKey and Google keyboard any day. It's way better and faster. Prediction is also way better.
    I may switch to Google's handwriting one for fun when it has been improved enough.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      That's seriously odd. There must be some difference between them?!

  5. Dan Fraser
    June 9, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    I'm pretty picky about my keyboard and have paid for and tried a great many (most of the ones mentioned in this article), but it seems I always end up coming back to SwiftKey. Like it advertises, it is the best at anticipating what I am trying to write. I can't say it any clearer. It just works. Very well.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:24 pm

      Cheers, Dan. Swiftkey seems to be getting a lot of love on this thread...

  6. Joe Consultant
    June 9, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    I installed an Android terminal app the other day and immediately got stuck because I couldn't see any way to type a Ctrl-C to get out of a running command other than closing the terminal. What keyboard or workaround will handle that?

    • Bernhard Voit
      June 12, 2015 at 1:08 pm

      Hi Joe, i'm using the Hacker's Keyboard in Terminal Emulator - there you have the cusor keys and a lot more. But the control keys depend on the app. In Terminal Emulator you get the Ctrl keys with the lower volume key plus the letter.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      This could be a good question for our 'Answers' section!

  7. David Dollar
    June 9, 2015 at 5:04 am

    GO keyboard.Its free,has all languages input and a variety of themes for free.Just try. You can uninstall anytime.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      Thanks for the tip David :)

  8. Kelly McNulty Valenzuela
    June 8, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    You may want to note that as of the writing of this article, Swiftkey is having some MAJOR problems. I had to uninstall it just to be able to use my Note 4. https://support.swiftkey.com/hc/en-us/articles/201458322-SwiftKey-is-crashing-after-SwiftKey-5-update "f your SwiftKey is crashing after the recent update, this is a known issue we are working on."

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:25 pm

      Ouch, well timed!

  9. Devin Todd
    June 8, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Surprised touchpal isn't on the list.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      Haha, there's only so many I could include... Maybe we can make a part 2!

  10. Jim Bruce
    June 8, 2015 at 12:13 am

    Multiling Keyboard O
    Free but you'll donate as soon as you've seen the features (like your boiler plate library).
    It's tiny too. How is it possible? Extraordinary good.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      Cheers for the input Jim :)

  11. Daniel Escasa
    June 7, 2015 at 11:43 am

    MessagEase -- first thing I'll install on a new Android device. Can't use any other keyboard

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      Thanks Daniel.

  12. Mike Liveright
    June 7, 2015 at 2:28 am

    I use Swype, though there are lots of mainly simple, though very important customizations I wish theythey would add, because Swype supports COPY, PASTE... best, and much if what I do is to transfer text from one page to another.

    I also find that it's text suggestion are good, it swipes well, it's dictation is good, etc...

    My major requests are to design a better kkeyboard layout, with some keys moved to long press areas and deleted as primary keys, others streached, others added, etc., as well as resizing the keyboard, making it transparent, being able to move it almost off the screen,...

    Finally, the keyboard should support more drag from shift, ?123, to key inputs.

    Despite these Swype still is me preferred keyboard.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      Is Swype really outperforming the others for swipe-typing now?

      • Mike Liveright
        June 16, 2015 at 9:02 pm

        I find that Swype is reasonable re: speed with its support of drag type in swypeing, and word correction. It may be that others are somewhat faster, I just haven't seen any that seemed faster, but certai, not enough if they don't have easy

        Copy/paste..

        As I have said, I do have suggestion on the layout and commands, and drag/hold choices that I want different, or better yet configurable, but so far it seems to be the best of the choices.

        I want to eliminate the lower right keyboard and voice input keys, instead use the hold ?123 menu and have the voice input in that menu.

        I also want more drag capability, eg upper case ... Shift drag letter, number/symbol ... ?123 drag letter, action (cut,copy,Paste,left,Right) ... Tab drag letter. Note: I prefer not to use the Swype as tbe modifier but the tab, to eliminate the short delay.

        Finally,I still want better zoom and shrink, and movement on the keyboard.

  13. Larry Salberg
    June 6, 2015 at 7:04 pm

    I was a bit surprised at the article content because of the title. I expected a review of HARDWARE keyboards rather than virtual keyboards.

    I realize most users don't want the bulk if an accessory keyboard but for heavy use, there's no real substitute. These also serve a multi-function purpose since many users also have tablets.

    How about a review of accessory (small form-factor) PHYSICAL keyboards? I've looked at the few that are available in stores, as well as those available online, but it's very difficult to make a good comparison without actually using them.

    • Devin Todd
      June 8, 2015 at 11:12 am

      Lulz.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      Hi Larry,

      Sorry for the confusion.

      It's actually a good idea for an article, but I am not sure how keen our finance dept would be on shelling out $$$ on lots of Android keyboards that would be used once!

      I'll mention it though...

      Dan

  14. Susan Bellwood
    June 6, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    I use Swiftkey mainly because I can have an extra row for my numbers, but it works and it's free.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      Thanks for the tips Susan!

  15. likefun butnot
    June 6, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    I'm a Swype user, mostly because my communication regularly involves huge amounts of jargon and Swype dictionaries synchronize across devices. I enter text quickly enough on it that even in real time chatting, no one knows whether I'm at a PC or on a mobile device.

    I like swipe to type style keyboards a great deal. I wish I could get one for my Surface devices and that Apple would give up on its unforgivable text entry abomination in favor of licensing a better option.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      "Swype dictionaries synchronize across devices" - - - I didn't know that.

  16. Natalie Kizeridis
    June 6, 2015 at 11:59 am

    I use TouchPal and I love it.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      Thanks Natalie :)

  17. Eric Heirman
    June 6, 2015 at 8:31 am

    Swiftkey is my number one choice. It detects which language I'm writing in and adjusts the predictive text engine accordingly. I've tried Minuum and Fleksy, but they lack in this area.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      It detects which language I’m writing in and adjusts the predictive text engine accordingly - - - that's another cool feature I didn't know about...

  18. Amar Hss
    June 6, 2015 at 5:45 am

    Swype and Dragon. Like the voice to text abilities.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks Amar!

  19. Glen LeBarr
    June 5, 2015 at 10:06 pm

    Swiftkey

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Cheers Glen

  20. Steve Bateman-Wright
    June 5, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    I have used Big Buttons Keyboard for a while now (I have dumpy fingers!). I doubt I could live without it.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Haha, at least someone is catering to your needs!

  21. Steliyan Andreev
    June 5, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    I've been using swype long before it was beta version, and today I'm still using it and it's the first app that I download after hard reset/changing phone.

    • Dan Price
      June 16, 2015 at 4:34 pm

      Cheers Steliyan

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