SwiftKey is an app which has played a significant role in the history of Android. It has proven so popular that developers of the native Android keyboard and manufacturers like HTC were forced to up their game.
Following the success of SwiftKey, we have also seen a large number of third-party developers release new keyboards or heavily update existing apps. This has resulted in a large amount of choice for Android users, with a plenty of high quality keyboards available to download from the Play store.
There was two key features that set SwiftKey apart from the competition – the accuracy of its autocorrect function and its ability to predict the next word you wanted to type.
Haptic feedback may have helped a little, but generally a touchscreen is not as comfortable to type on as a physical keyboard. Anyone switching to Android from a BlackBerry device, or Palm Pre, is particularly likely to have noticed a big difference in the experiences.
The limits of the touchscreen left many feeling that their typing was neither as quick nor as accurate as it could be.
Hitting the correct key on a QWERTY layout crammed on to a relatively small screen was always going to be a challenge. The team behind SwiftKey recognised this, but went about developing a sophisticated autocorrection system in order to compensate.
With SwiftKey you no longer needed to hit every key accurately. In fact, you could miss every key and the app would still be able to guess which word you intended to type.
Even the spacebar became semi-redundant, as SwiftKey was able to automatically separate your text. And the reason the app proved to be so popular was that it actually lived up to all of the hype.
Now well into the second part of 2013, we find Android keyboards in a much better place than when SwiftKey made its debut. There are many capable rivals available in the Play store, and even the stock Jelly Bean keyboard supports both autocorrection and prediction.
Although SwiftKey has added features such as Flow – allowing you to trace across the keyboard without lifting your finger in between letters – there is a feeling that it is being caught by rivals.
Backing up to the cloud
The company has just introduced SwiftKey Cloud, in a bid to firmly establish itself at the head of a competitive field once again. This latest edition of the app saves users’ setting remotely, meaning they can access their configuration across multiple devices.
The latest update to SwiftKey does feel like a game-changer. Previously settings and data were store on individual devices, meaning that every time you switched to a new device it was necessary for SwiftKey to learn your typing preferences again.
SwiftKey’s word prediction works by learning from users. It is able to identify words and phrases not only from typing, but also social media accounts.
The more you use SwiftKey, the more accurate it becomes. However, switch to a new phone, or perform a factory reset, and potentially months or even years worth of data is lost.
SwiftKey now overcomes this problem by storing users’ personal language profiles in the cloud. So if you have both an Android phone and tablet, data from SwiftKey can be synched across the two devices.
The ability to back up data isn’t the only way that SwiftKey connects beyond the device where it is being used. The app will also capture trending phrases that are being discussed and reported around the world.
Although SwiftKey can still learn new words and phrases, this takes time and ultimately slows down the process of typing.
After an initial period when SwiftKey has learnt most of the specific vocabulary that an individual uses regularly, new phrases will most likely have to be learnt when trending topics are discussed. But instead of taking time to learn from a user, the app will now be able to take advantage of the massive amount of data available online in order to make predictions.