App: Swype Keyboard v188.8.131.5220400.50699
Developer: Nuance Communications, Inc.
IAP: $0.99 - $3.99
Editorial note: Covering the massive realm of all available retail Android keyboards is a daunting task that could possibly encompass months to thoroughly research in entirety. However, in testing several various third party input solutions by writing reviews utilizing some of the more popular packages, I have arrived at a few that I highly recommend. Through much consideration regarding the nature of these applications, my conclusion is that a logical keyboard selection ultimately depends upon one's personal needs and preferences. Since almost every developer offers different approaches and functions to provide maximum input efficiency, these varying methods will inherently appeal to discerning tastes. While avoiding any statements regarding one product being superior to another, I will gradually release reviews highlighting the keyboards that effectively remain installed on my particular devices. - Shardz -
Swype is a virtual keyboard for Android that is extremely flexible in catering to real world situations, as well as offering varying configuration styles that adapt to many preferences. Originally, Swype was first commercially available on the Samsung Omnia II running Windows Mobile, and has since been marketed to many manufacturers as pre-installed software on a multitude of devices, reaching to well over 100 million users. In October 2011, Swype Inc. was acquired by Nuance Communications where the company continued its development and implemented its famous speech recognition algorithm, Dragon Dictation, that allows for seamless hands-free operation. As of April 2013, Swype Keyboard became available on Google Play as a retail product, enjoying immense popularity and being touted as the keyboard that started it all. With several different modes of convenient operation and numerous input methods fitting to your lifestyle, the incredible responsive nature and smooth feel of Swype is a unique experience in a complete package. As a reviewer with monumental tasks in written communications, I personally require a responsive flow with accurate word prediction and correction, along with full text editing functions that are conveniently placed. Gradually reducing installed keyboards on my tablet down to a mere seven total, I can safely say that Swype remains the primary keyboard that I use the most for a bevy of reasons that suit my particular needs. Being such a superior product, Swype could possibly be your favorite input method, as well. Switching your current keyboard is as easy as going into Android's settings and selecting a newly installed package; any existing keyboard configurations will remain untouched. This provides a quick way to test out new keyboards without affecting others you may wish to keep installed. With no risk or hassle involved, we will swipe over to Swipe to see what the buzz is all about.
Swype offers several keyboard configurations that include the full layout, split mode for tablets, left and right mini layouts for single-handed usage and a stationary mini floating keyboard to view content that is normally obscured where you type. It would be handy to be able to drag the mini floating keyboard where desired, but this is apparently mostly a mode for single-handed typing. Input can be handled in normal typing fashion, with swiping gestures that leave a trail, voice input using the Dragon Dictation algorithm, or with a special handwriting recognition function suitable for use with a stylus. Combining these layouts with the varying input modes creates an amazing flexibility that will adapt to nearly any need or preference with just a handy touch of a convenient button. All methods work extremely well as the word prediction and correction algorithms tie everything together with intelligent and logical means that are the most accurate and effective I have experienced in any package. Some popular keyboards focus on SMS Gifs and stickers, cute statistical achievements, animated key pops and the like, while Swype engages efficiency, flexibility and adaptation for maximum productivity through practicality. Numeric and special characters are handled well with long presses revealing extended characters, as well as having their own respective layouts in entirety. Of paramount importance to me is the text editing layout that contains cut, copy, paste, line select, select all and four cursor keys that make editing tasks not only possible in some cases, but a pleasure to use. Android's stock editing methods leaves quite a bit to be desired in terms of convenience and function, but Swype comes to the rescue with a full suite of tools at the press of a button, or handy swipe gestures that execute the same commands. Additionally, there are currently a total of thirteen swipe gestures that can be rapidly executed that range from interface control, quick access to the number pad, automatic punctuation toggle and other various adjustments to make life easier.
Regarding performance and ergonomics, Swype is incredibly sensitive and responsive to the touch, which gives the keyboard a great overall feel and sense of control. Alternating between swiping, voice recognition, handwriting mode and normal typing is fast and seamless with almost no inherent delay. As cute as key pops and aesthetic animations appear, Swype eliminates these trendy visuals in lieu of efficiency and functionality, ultimately allowing maximum character output per minute with zero lag in the process. Contributing greatly to this efficiency is a feature called 'living language and hot words' that provides perpetually updated words from Internet trends and sources derived from popularity around the globe. This optional method seamlessly integrates these trending words and phrases into Swype's language prediction and correction algorithm in real time, effectively adapting to the world as you type. There is also a typical personal dictionary that syncs to the cloud that will provide your customized words and phrases to any device with Swype installed. An option exists to automatically add new words to your personal database that Swype isn't familiar with, as well as an easy system to delete unwanted words in the text prediction bar by simply long pressing on it. You may also choose to personalize Swype with social networking sources like Twitter, Facebook, SMS and the usual applications, which will add the many words already typed to your personal dictionary. Multiple language support will allow you to type in two languages at once with ease, with many dictionaries available to download for free. Switching between the two with a long press on the space bar will also allow you to choose which languages you want immediately available. The text prediction model, as well as these additional learning modes, truly work wonders and is the most thorough and accurate algorithm I have used in my hundreds of hours of testing several different products.
The keyboard can be expanded vertically in options to extend to a higher range, though the keys aren't very large in the tablet layout with no way to resize the width. Frequently typing elongated words with one wrong character can be easily rectified by tapping on the corrected word in the prediction bar to great effect, however. A particular feature I would love to see implemented that could possibly see me abandoning all other keyboards is a utility for macros. To press a button and have frequently typed email addresses, nicknames, passwords and other redundantly typed words available with a single tap would be marvelous. Swype will not remember password data, and those characters are usually obscured as a whole; thus, the text prediction and correction will not help much in that regard. Within Swype are so many ergonomic actions that can be easily discovered to boost your efficiency that it's fun to long press and swipe on keys to find them at your leisure. Depending on the combination of languages selected, long pressing a character key will bring up a popup window with all possible extended characters that you can quickly swipe to select. Even without reading the handy help section of all available gestures, Swype is very intuitive and will take only a short time to learn. Getting to the visual aspects of Swype, the retail version currently comes with 19 different themes that are reasonably different in style for any environment and is generous as a core package. For those who want more variety, Swype offers a store in the settings page that offers an abundance of individual themes, as well as packs of themes for a discounted price. Since these are strictly optional and so many color varieties already come with the retail package, it's most definitely a preferential consideration. One minor note of interest, the swipe trail color cannot be changed in settings, only the trail length, so changing this is only possible through themes with various hue configurations. There are quite a few people who are not enamored with the color orange, which is the default color of the swipe trail, but it stands out well and is very serviceable.
Over time, I will release comparative views on competing packages that I feel are of exceptional quality, and a few that I used at length prior to discovering Swype. One of these being the completely free Hacker's Keyboard, which is an amazing technical keyboard that I feel should be mentioned for good measure. Choosing a retail keyboard package truly depends on your application, style and desired features; however, I have also learned that the perfect virtual keyboard does not yet exist. There is always that one additional feature, or the desired omission of another, that would make it rule over all forever more, but I'm not convinced that could ever happen with something so personal. As Swype has a relatively normal memory footprint for a retail keyboard as it stands, loading it up with an all-inclusive editor allowing for complete customization would probably detract from the overall smoothness and speed, which is its primary attraction. Some prefer to use the default keyboard that ships with their device, but chances are good that your productivity could be boosted exponentially, while giving you added enjoyment in the process. As the retail product is available for under a single U.S. dollar, not considering any optional themes, the true question stands; can you afford not to check out Swype?
- Offers several ergonomic keyboard layouts.
- Input modes of type, swipe, voice and handwriting.
- Phone and tablet versions included in one package.
- Full text editing control with swipe gesture commands.
- Extremely responsive and smooth in all modes of input.
- Great flexibility, adaptation and dynamic dictionaries.
- A wide variety of themes are available in the Swype store.
- A macro feature would be a great addition.
- No way to customize the color of the swipe trail.
- The keys on all layouts can be small for some users.
- Floating mini keyboard is fixed at a stationary position.
Device/OS used: Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy Note 3, Nexus 7 2012, Nexus 7 2013 / KitKat v4.4.2, KitKat v4.4.4, Lollipop v5.1.1
Purchase at Google Play
Purchase at Amazon
Mobilism: Swype Keyboard v184.108.40.20620400.50699 [Unlocked]