Chart-topping predictive keyboard app SwiftKey has been made available to Android users free of charge. SwiftKey has adopted a freemium business model – whilst there is no charge for the keyboard itself, additional themes are available at an extra cost.
When any company starts offering a product for free that people have paid money for in the past, there is the obvious potential for a backlash. In an attempt to mitigate against this, anyone who previously purchased SwiftKey is being offered a pack of ten premium themes at no cost.
SwiftKey have been clear about the reason for the change in business model – they want to increase their user base. Although the app has been installed on an impressive-sounding 200 million devices, it has struggled to make a significant impact in some emerging markets.
In some countries, buying apps is not a straightforward, easy process. Due to regulatory and payment processing difficulties, paid apps are not available from the Play Store in certain markets.
Whilst SwiftKey has consistently appeared near the top of Google Play’s paid apps chart since its launch, the keyboard faces a number of competitive challenges.
Since Google’s acquisition of BlindType – a promising-looking Android keyboard app that was never officially released – the stock Android keyboard has improved considerably. In Google Keyboard, Android users have the option of using a highly capable predictive keyboard, with support for swiping, that is available free from the Play Store.
Although many still regard SwiftKey as the best Android keyboard, it is no longer the undisputed king. Rivals such as Go Keyboard, TouchPad X Keyboard and Kii Keyboard are not only impressive, but also available on a freemium basis.
SwiftKey has been buoyed by an injection of venture capital, and the sale of themes means that it will continue to generate revenues despite the removal of the paid app. Long-term, though, SwiftKey may have much bigger goals in sight.
Like many tech companies, TouchType – the British company behind SwiftKey – clearly believes that profits will be much larger in the future if it successfully wins the battle for users today.
[via The Guardian]