MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?

Ads by Google

bestkeyboard9   MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?The Android keyboard market is a pretty exciting place right now. Where a few years ago typing on a touchscreen seemed like a cumbersome experience marred by repeated tapping and laughably horrible autocorrect, we now get to glide, swipe, and slide our way across emails and other text like never before. Typing on a smartphone has become an almost painless experience – but not all mobile keyboards were made equal.

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 death match” if you’re feeling particularly nerdy today. To test all four Android keyboards, I’ve picked the  same text and swiped it out without making any corrections. Let’s see who’s the most accurate – It’s science!

My Test Paragraph

Below is the original paragraph I will try swiping through with each of the keyboards. It comes from a short story called Kings by Travis S. Taylor, part of the Baen Free Library.

They stood below him, ready and willing – in fact anxious – to give their lives for the Emperor. Abhir felt calm and confident as always and definitely looked the part of the Emperor of the Universe. The Corps of Seven stood firmly behind him in their smart golden uniforms. Abhir stood straight, ran his fingers over his long white hair and then straightened his golden Corps insignia band. The insignia bore a man holding seven suns in his right hand and wielding a brilliant shining sword before his face as if he were poised to kiss it.

Ads by Google

I picked this paragraph because it contains just a single proper name (which every sliding keyboard is bound to stumble on), and no technical jargon. So, it’s a bit like an ordinary email, if you happen to be talking to someone about the Emperor of the Universe. After typing it up with each keyboard, I will show you the differences between the original and the keyboard output. I will be using DiffChecker, a tool we reviewed here, to make the comparison.

The rules, in brief: Only sliding (no tapping at all!), NO correcting any errors, NO manually selecting alternatives suggestions, NO manually capitalizing anything, NO being over-careful and watching every word. Just casually swiping without over thinking it.

Native Android 4.2 Keyboard

bestkeyboard   MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?

Claim to fame: Comes with Android… if you’re cutting-edge enough.

Getting it: You need to install an Android 4.2 ROM, or another ROM that has it enabled. It’s not on Google Play (like most of our contenders really).

Using it: In terms of user experience, this is a very solid keyboard. It feels fast, and the text prediction bubble moves along with your finger as you type (so it’s always literally at the tip of your finger).

Test results: They aid below him, ready and willing – in fact anxious – to giver their lubes for the emperor. Abut felt calm and confident as always and definitely looked there Lafferty of the emperor of the universe. The corps of seven sod firmly behind him in their smarty golden uniforms. Abhor sod straight, ran his fingers over hodge lung white hair and then straightlaced gird golden Corot’s insignia bang. the insignia bore a man golfing seven find in hid right hand and wielding a brilliant shining sword before hits face add if he were passed to kiss it.

best keyboard   MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?

Bottom line: Woah, “give their lubes for the emperor”? Really, Google? But that amusing mistake is far from the only one, as you can see from the colorful diff output above. The Android 4.2 keyboard missed obvious words like “stood,” repeatedly substituting “sod” for it.  Note however that most of the text is correct, which is impressive given the crazy pace at which I was swiping.

SwiftyKey Flow Beta

bestkeyboard3   MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?

Claim to fame: A powerful predictive text algorithm, combined with swiping.  On paper, this should make for a killer combo.

Getting it: At the time of this writing, you can grab it from the SwiftKey Flow Beta page.

Using it: These days, SwiftKey flow is actually my keyboard of choice. Its predictive algorithm really does work well (or maybe I’m just a repetitive guy, always writing the same things). It’s quick and responsive, and makes it easy to type numbers and other non-alpha characters.

Test results: They sod belle him, Ray and willing – in fact anxious – to give their lives for the emperor. About felt calm and confident as always and definitely liked the past of the emperor of the universe. The corps of seven stood firmly being him in their smarty golden uniforms. About stood straight, tan his fingers over good long white hair and then straightened good golden corps insignia bang. The insignia bite a man holding seven duna in his right hand and wielding a brilliant sword before his face add if he was passed to kiss it.

best keyboard3   MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?

Bottom line: They sod belle him, indeed. In all fairness, though, it must be said I did not use SwiftKey Flow’s crowning feature, its powerful predictive text engine. As are the rules, I never once paused to look at what I was typing and pick an alternative. In general, there seem to be less differences, indicating better accuracy. Also, maybe “smarty golden uniforms” is just a thing – Google and SwiftKey seem to agree on this one.

Swype Beta

bestkeyboard5   MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?

Note: This isn’t Swype’s default skin, but it’s bundled with it.

Claim to fame: Well, it’s Swype, duh! What more do you want? Seriously though, Swype is one of the most-hyped Android keyboards of all time, and was there before SwiftKey Flow and the Android 4.2 keyboards joined the sliding-text party. Also, it features a powerful speech recognition engine made by Nuance, the same guys behind the epic Dragon NaturallySpeaking for PC.

Getting it: Some phones come with Swype, but for the actively-developed Beta, you’ll have to go to the Beta page. Thankfully, you no longer need to register for an account to get it, which is nice.

Using it: Quite frankly, Swype feels a bit slow on my Galaxy S III. Maybe it’s how it draws the trail behind my finger as I glide across the screen, but there’s something sluggish and tired about it. On the plus side, Swype makes it easy to capitalize words without hitting the Shift (just glide up beyond the keyboard’s top border). If you’d like to read some more about using Swype, check out my Swype Beta review (although some of my complaints have already been addressed in this current version).

Test results: They stood below him, ready and willing – in fact anxious – to give their lives for the emperor. Angkor felt calm and confident add always and saintly looked the past of the Emperor off the Universe. The Corps of Seven aid firmly behind him in their smart golden uniforms.website stood straight, ran his fingers over God long while hair and then staggered good Golden Corps insignia band.the insignia bite a man holding seven suns in his right hand and wielding a brilliant shining sword before his face as if he were posed to kiss it.

best keyboard5   MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?

Bottom line: Swype’s results seem roughly on par with SwiftKey’s, both eclipsing the native Android 4.2 keyboard. One unfortunate flaw is that Swype doesn’t automatically add spaces following periods, resulting in quite a few needless errors (recognition was fine, but the dot messed it up). Also, “website stood straight” – we at MakeUseOf care greatly about the posture of our website, so that’s good.

SlideIT

bestkeyboard7   MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?

Note: This isn’t SlideIT’s default skin, but it’s bundled with it.

Claim to fame: You can just get it. No Beta, no installers, nothing shifty like that. Go to Google Play, pay up, and download. (Yes, it’s not free)

Getting it: Couldn’t be simpler: Google Play.

Using it: I’ve reviewed SlideIT back in 2011, and it hasn’t changed much since. It’s a nice keyboard, but it won’t blow you away with a speech recognition engine, powerful predictive algorithms, or even a word hovering at your fingertip. It’s here to get the job done (and it’s up to you to choose a skin nicer than the default).

Test results: They stood before, Rafi and willing -in heavy anxious -to ground their motives for three emperor. About felt calm and confident add amounts and definitely looked the past of the emperor odd the universe. The curious odd seven stood firmly behind him in their smart golden uniforms. Abroad stood stair, ran good fingers over goes Ling white hair and then good golden corps imaginings band. The indigenous view a man holding seven suns in his right hand and wielding a brilliant shining sword before his face as if he eye passed to kids it.

best keyboard7   MakeUseOf Tests: What Is The Best Android Keyboard?

Bottom line: Oh no, such a disappointment. Rafi, in case you were wondering,  is an Israeli name (short for Rafael). SlideIT disappoints with a significantly worse result than either Swype or SwiftKey Flow, virtually coloring the diff with errors. “To ground their motives for three emperor” – when recognition errors are so thick and heavy, you might not even remember what it was you were originally trying to write when the time comes to proofread (you do proofread, right?).

Bottom Line

SwiftKey Flow and Swype win! To pick between the two, you’ll have to consider which extra feature is more important for you: Text prediction or speech recognition. I’m going to stick with SwiftKey Flow because it makes it easy to switch between languages (no need to press-and-hold anything).

If you have an Android 4.2 phone, you can definitely use the native option for a while, but it’s almost certain you’ll get better results with either of the free Betas. Sadly, I would be hard-pressed to recommend  SlideIT at this point given the state of the competition, but future versions may surprise us yet.

And one final disclaimer: This test was not scientific by any stretch of the imagination. You are more than welcome to repeat it yourself and report your results in the comments. What’s your Android keyboard of choice, and why?

Ads by Google

27 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Scott Macmillan

I have used swipe to this point but swiftkey appears the better choice.

Reply

Francisco de Gusmão

I actually use touchPal and I’m very pleased with its results. You should try it, it’s also on Google Play. I’ve tried swype too, but I didn’t like the overall experience.

Reply

Félix S. De Jesús

I prefer to use the default Android Keyboard. In my case is because when I use the other keyboards, specially the swiftkey, the keyboard makes me crazy writing words that I don’t want it. It’s like the t9 keys on a cellphone. Creepy!! :/

Reply

Brandon

I’ve been using Kii Keyboard for some time now and I must say it’s my personal favorite.

Reply

Harshit Jain

Where is hacker keyboard and thumb keyboard? I really love them.

Erez Zukerman

With so many great keyboards out there, I couldn’t possibly hope to cover every favorite. They’re good keyboards, I agree. :)

Reply

Art Ramirez

I’ve been using TouchPal using the compact keyboard and have been really happy with it. Works fast, doesn’t slow down over time and is great with text prediction. It also features swype capability if you use the full keyboard instead of the compact version. Its in the Play Store. Check it out.

Reply

Katarzyna Wch

SwiftKey, like the look, but love the fact that it “learns” my style from texts.
Plus predictive text based on the two languages I normally use for my texts, chats or mails.

Reply

Kevin Vrancken

I’m using the default keyboard from Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, I like it so much that I don’t need another one.

Reply

Edgardo Gonzalez Pereyra

I started with thumb keyboard, I use swift keyboard for the tablet and swipe for the phone because I injured my shoulder and that’s the reason it impressed me for 1 hand typing… They both are great and I’m going to try kii soon so I like their marketing strategy and looks promising….

Reply

Matt

I think Magic Keyboard Pro would do a good job on your test para.

Reply

LD

I like and use Swiftkey Flow.

My peeve with all these swipe keyboards is that if I deliberately type a word (by taping each letter rather than swipe through it) I want it to trust what I type.

Erez Zukerman

Go to Settings > Language and Input > Swiftkey Flow Beta (press the little “settings” icon on the right).

Then, Advanced > Spacebar will… > Always insert a space

now you can type any gibberish you want, and SwiftKey will never autocorrect you! :)

Reply

Jeffrey Zabala

I for one love Swype beta and have been using it for years now (since I had my Nexus 1) … I have yet to use the native 4.2 keyboard, but after reading this review it looks like I will be sticking with Swype either way. I’ve tried Swiftkey but just couldn’t get accustomed to it.

Ken E Baker

Yeah. Avoid the native Android keyboard. I was very excited to try it, being a swype beta user for a while and wanting to move onto a formal supported keyboard, but Google need to release a few more updates for the accuracy. It is not half as accurate or intuitive as swype.

Reply

Pianex Sobude

I haven’t changed my keyboard since I purchased my latest phone 6 months ago mainly because I didn’t know I can do so. Now I know which one is better. Thanks for sharing.

Reply

Ken E Baker

Thanks for the article. A long-time Swype user – both on phone and tablet, I have tried alternatives and found nothing came close. Then I had a look at your recommendation on Swiftkey flow – it seems pretty impressive. Doing a test drive at the moment and liking what I am seeing.

Reply

Joe Joiner

Swype adds spaces after periods if you use it correctly — you need to swipe from the period key to the spacebar key, instead of tapping. Most intelligent and easy to use keyboard in my opinion, definitely needs some speed tweaks though.

Reply

Avi D

For me its Swipe, using it since day one of my Smartphone!

Reply

Anonymous

Has anyone here tried GO Keyboard?
As a tri-lingual speaker, I found GO Keyboard really suits my need.
I’m not a big fan of swiping motion and I really like keyboards with autocorrect.
(That sounds weird…I know)

Reply

Elizabeth

I have a question about keyboards in general, specifically keyboards on small devices like smartphones. I come from the U.S. where the standard QWERTY keyboard is used on computers and cell phones, the 26-letter Roman alphabet. I have never been out of the U.S. and don’t speak any other language besides English.

What I want to know is how do people whose primary language uses non-Roman alphabets send text messages. Do their keyboards say QWERTY too, or do the keyboards come in their native alphabet? If so how do people in China send text messages, since they have so many more letters than ours? How are cell phones physically designed for non-Western alphabets? Do QWERTY keyboards use Braille?

I’m not asking to be mocking or derisive; I really am curious about how keyboards are designed in places besides the U.S. and/or for special accommodations. I know there are Unicode characters in the Arial font, but I’m asking about the physical design of the keyboard on phones like the (call me dated) LG Envy or attachable keyboards for tablet PCs. Any insight is truly appreciated.

Chanapol Puapattanakun

It depends on language family though. Many south east Asian countries have their own characters, so we will need another keyboard layout for our own characters apart from QWERTY keyboard which comes as a default.

Take a look on my Thai keyboard on my Android phone.
http://imgur.com/73IsdKt

Anyway, we still use English QWERTY as default input.

I could give you some insight about Chinese and Japanese input.
Chinese and Japanese keyboard input are based on pronunciation.
Users just type the pronunciation using QWERTY input (or how that particular sound will be written using English characters) then press spacebar to select the right character they want. Because many characters share the same sound, and there are just too many characters to fit in a keyboard.

Let me show you an example of Japanese input.
I can type “watashi” on QWERTY keyboard and select whether I want to display it as “watashi”, “???”, or “?”

Reply

Tammy Summerville

What would be best for number pad? I have a nextbook 7p128g and I can’t seen to get the number pad. I have an android (Samsung sch-r720 / metropcs / android ver2.3.4) and it gives me a choice of keyboards that offers an option to get the number key pad, to use as a calcula tor. However I have trouble getting that “smartphone” to ever do the samething , the same way twice. In other words, I constantly get a different screen so I can’t figure how I got that number pad option before. I hope u get what I am trying to type, ONE LETTER AT A TIME!! I appreciate any help/advise/suggestion s that u may have. Thanks in advance.
Tammy summerville
Ttammy2006@Gmail.com

Reply

NH

I use KlearKeys transparent keyboard. There’s a tablet version and a new phone version (which I haven’t tried yet) but I love the transparency and the customisation is awesome.

Erez Zukerman

Thanks for the recommendation! Checking it out.

Reply

Tomer

I’ve tried many so far and was using Swype for a long time but it became too sluggish.

MessagEase Keyboard is my new favorite, sort of tapping and sliding using only 9 keys. After some getting used to (several days) it somehow makes more sense than using a tiny QWERTY keyboard.

Reply

Ram Kumar

Good compilation with test results

Your comment