When I first discovered Android, one of the things that blew me away was the idea that you could install a third-party keyboard. I wasn’t stuck with the one that came on the phone, which in those early days was usually something quite dreadful.
Fast forward to today, and Android is awash in so many great keyboard options that you can truly find one that fits your typing style and learns your preferences quite well. Many of them are also cross-platform and can sync up your preferences with iOS if you like to dabble with the Dark Side.
Keyboards are a very personal choice, so my number one may not be yours. But if you’re not sure where to go then let this lineup be your guide to a much better typing experience.
The winner: SwiftKey
I expected this to be a lot closer than it actually was. For quite a while there was SwiftKey and and a wide gap in quality over everyone else. But that space has narrowed, and while I may prefer SwiftKey over the others, there are plenty of valid reasons why you might want to go with another keyboard instead.
SwiftKey still has plenty of merits that earn it the top distinction. It’s still best in class at language learning, with the company pouring tons of research into the effort. The keyboard learns your preferences, shows you typing stats, and syncs up this information across both the Android and iOS versions. And if you can’t find a theme you like from SwiftKey’s massive theme vault, then it probably doesn’t exist.
However, after using it as my go-to keyboard for nearly three years I feel like some bugs have crept in. It can hiccup and hang at times, an issue I've experienced across a variety of Android devices. I can’t of course speak to the code or any internal metrics, but my anecdotal experience hasn’t been as smooth, which is why some of the others on this list look so attractive.
SwiftKey offers another advantage: you can live on the edge a bit with a beta build or SwiftKey Neural Alpha. It takes use of neural network learning, which shows tremendous promise for strengthening how machines understand human language. Some of the predictions are wicked smart, but it’s definitely a bumpy ride given the alpha status.
Runner-up: Google Keyboard
Google has seriously ramped up its game when it comes to producing a high-quality keyboard. I’ve come to really enjoy Google Keyboard because it has an almost Apple-like level of focus on simplicity. It looks great, is smooth, and is a great benchmark for Material Design. And just like Google’s other products, it uses your information (typing history, contacts, and other data) to improve typing suggestions.
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