Android Apps – SwiftKey

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SwiftKey just came into the Android Market with the promise of 50% faster typing speeds.

SwiftKey is one of the on-screen keyboards that just became available for Android devices. It’s released as a time limited beta and the full version is expected soon. SwiftKey is from a company called TouchType and uses their “Fluency” prediction engine which is apparently available in other text entry systems.

SwiftKey is their keyboard for the Android platform and they claim to increase your current typing speed by 50% by predicting the next word that you may want to type. Effectively reducing the number of taps and therefore increasing your typing speed. I installed SwiftKey from the market and used it for the whole day, and here’s what I found.

I am a heavy typer. Throughout the day, I am texting, tweeting and note taking. All of this happens on my phone since I move around a lot and I don’t have access to these social networks in office. SwiftKey is a fairly comfortable keyboard. I could use it throughout the day without a problem, except one really big one. I will come to that a little later. First the good parts.

The word prediction is astounding. It borders on mind reading at times. Although not from the very beginning. It tends to learn, I believe from your typing patterns. It also does a scan of your text messages during setup, which also adds to the learning. The keys are spaced comfortably even on my Samsung Galaxy Spica so I am sure that the sizing will be comfortable for the larger screen phones. SwiftKey consider the center word shown to you in the suggestions to be the most accurate to the context and if you just keep clicking on that center suggestion without any input, you will automatically form a coherent sentence. In my case it was “I am ready to go to the bank for some quick work.” I don’t know whether this will be different for different people on the basis of the learning that the app is able to gain for usage and texts or this is what everyone will be tapping in. The app is also very quick. There is no lag in the touch to type and you can also choose the language that you want to work with for the work prediction.

Now the bad. To get the benefit that SwiftKey can definitely give you, you have to completely change the way you type! Here’s how if felt to me. I type in the first couple of characters of the word that I wanted to type and SwiftKey very predictably, predicts the word and displays the top three choices the the suggestions on the top of the keyboard. I now have to click on the suggestion which I feel is the right one and then move onto the next word, or use the space key or key in a punctuation. While the suggestions are very accurate, I have to consciously stop typing mid-word and let SwiftKey take over. Type 2 characters-Stop-choose suggestion-start next word. It’s a little unnatural for me to do this and I found myself doing this only when the word was of a certain length. for the shorter 4 to 5 letter words I would just type on thorough till the end. The utility, for me, was lost unless the word was a longer one.

So for the time being I and going to be sticking to Swype for my one finger typing need and the standard Android keyboard for the 2 finger typing.

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