10
Mar
snap20110310_174630

Even though SwiftKey has always been my favorite keyboard in theory, I've never been able to truly make the move from the HTC keyboard on my EVO to it for one reason - it didn't have arrow keys exposed on the main screen. Prediction was also about the same - sometimes worse, sometimes better, so I stuck with the HTC stock offering, giving SwiftKey's new versions a try here and there.

Everything changed with the new beta that was just sent to VIP members (if you are one of them, you can grab the download link from here). Not only is the new prediction engine much better than before, but there is finally a checkbox in the options for arrow keys that users without trackballs need so badly. They occupy an extra row, while keeping the layout the same, so it gets a little tall, but it is fine by me - SwiftKey is finally turning into exactly what I've always wanted my keyboard to me (suck it, iPhone keyboard).

Speaking of the latest predictions, they are magnificent. I can mash the keys with the accuracy of a 2-year-old trying to play piano, but the text still makes perfect sense. Because it uses statistical analysis for predictions, rather than just a dumb dictionary, the chances of SwiftKey knowing what I'm trying to say are much higher than with any other keyboard. In case you didn't know, the company was actually primarily started to develop a smart prediction engine and only then sidestepped to introduce a keyboard as its first customer-facing implementation of its technology.

Check out the screenshots I took below - all of this was typed in the fastest manner possible, and I only caught one mistake. And at the end there, because it analyzed my SMS texts and previous corrections, it just knew what I was trying to say. This thing is alive!

snap20110310_174534 snap20110310_174630

If you are not a SwiftKey VIP, you will have to wait for the beta to reach a stable enough state to be released in the Market. In the meantime, enjoy the current version, available below:

Source: SwiftKey VIP forums

Artem Russakovskii
Artem is a die-hard Android fan, passionate tech blogger, obsessive-compulsive editor, bug hunting programmer, and the founder of Android Police.
Most of the time, you will find Artem either hacking away at code or thinking of the next 15 blog posts.

  • Coldman

    Yes!! This is great news.

  • http://sweeterskins.net Lemon

    LOL at the "holy shit" prediction!

  • Eric

    Downloading now! Too bad I flash roms so often, swiftkey never has enough time to learn much before I flash again, and TiBu doesn't seem to backup/restore it :(

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Actually, I just pinged SwiftKey about this, and good news: the data is stored on the SD card, so you won't lose prediction history.

      "All language learning etc. is on the SD card."

  • Jaymoon

    Unfortunately I think I may have lost my passion for SwiftKey. Having been using a modified copy of the Gingerbread stock keyboard, I find myself always defaulting back to it after a fresh flash.

    Maybe one day I'll come back to you Swiftkey, but adding arrows to the keyboard just isn't going to do it for me.

  • Abhishek

    Have Alpha tested this Beta version and guess what i fall in love with it more. Alpha version had Personalization which was an awesome feature to get those dot on predictions for what i usually type. This beta doesn't have that feature as the Team is still working on some bugs. It will be out in subsequent releases and then you see...will blow you away more! :)
    Cheers!!

  • Appelflap

    Omg, this was added 2 weeks ago to thumb keyboard.... Exact same option. Are those guys keep copying all innovations of thumb keyboard. Man this sucks!!

  • Appelflap

    I like to ask Android users for an opinion. As a developer I see that this big company is constantly stealing innovations I add to my keyboard. This has alarmed me so much that I have to stop adding all innovations I had in mind for upcoming versions of my keyboard.

    I really hate this to bring this to your attention. But it seems things are made unworkable. I contacted SwiftKey for a possibility to solve this as companion competitors trying to play a fair game so I can go on innovating.....

    Sorry, I hope mods don't remove this message. I'm looking for opinions. I'm open for opinions of Android users. Do you think this will in the end will be a benefit for Android the game SwiftKey plays?

    • juice

      My opinion is that you're being completely ridiculous, complaining about Swiftkey adding something HTC has had for ages, while you act like you you invented and it's never been seen before.

      Swiftkey is outstanding, I love it.

    • Tim van der Leeuw

      Hi,

      I've seen such arrows at the bottom of the keyboard before on stock-keyboards of other phones. I thought I've seen it on Motorola Android phones, the other poster thought it was HTC -- perhaps both have keyboards which offer this feature.

      So what other features do you feel have been stolen from you? And which other features do you think you could incorporate that have been implemented in other keyboards already? -- Perhaps you shouldn't be too shy yourself about copying great ideas ;-)

      (NB: I haven't used your keyboard implementation, so I really don't know what features it offers, or what features it might lack).

  • Reppate

    The author stated that the cursor keys were an option on the *HTC* keyboard that wasn't on Swiftkey. Appel, It appears that HTC may have come out with that option prior to two weeks ago.

    Personally, I'm glad that there is a competition for ideas within screen-based keyboards. This permits for everyone to continue developing on ideas to make text input easier for the enduser.

    If you choose to stop adding features to your keyboard, I think that you are only shooting yourself in the foot.

    Innovations in screen based keyboards serve the most amount of people (endusers), rather than an individual's bank account. This being said, I'm all for it.

    I wouldn't have chimed in, but you asked for opinions. That's mine. Sorry if it's not what you were hoping to hear.

    -Reppate

    • Abhishek

      Reppate you just stole my words :)

      Appel stop stomping your feet all around. I guess that wats Android is about...openness and ultimately benefiting the end users. The competition makes you go for better innovations...not to stop doing innovations. If you say -
      "...so much that I have to stop adding all innovations I had in mind for upcoming versions of my keyboard...."
      then you are accepting defeat in competition...you are already out of it then.
      Come on...buckle up and if you have innovations show everybody that hows its done...as if people wont get to know who have done it.
      We as end users always keep asking developers to include this feature and that feature....not everything comes from imagination..we see it in some other software in some friend's phone....and when the dev adds that then it doesn't mean he has stolen it...he has written the whole script...so he is as good as anybody out there serving the end users with the best and what they want. Urging you to be the same, keep innovating...we all know the nice work you are doing and let the decision be left to end users what to use !

  • appelflap

    The layout is by HTC. The option to make this optional was introduced by thumb keyboard 2 weeks ago. So for me this is clear evidence that this is again a brutal copy.
    It is paralyzing for a developer to see this. The only solution seems to be to spend my budget on marketing instead of research.
    I think swiftkey is crossing a big fat line here. And I will take some steps against this company. The point is there position in the market and the way they can use the Google platform. They just make my work impossible
    so in fact this is a very interesting case.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      You've got to be kidding me. The arrow keys feature has been on SwiftKey's top request list for months, and they finally got around to it. It's not like Thumb Keyboard invented the concept of arrow keys - the HTC keyboard has had the exact same layout ever since the beginning, and to think that you can think that making it show up via an option is something they've copied and couldn't come up with by themselves is just sad. I'm guessing you don't hold a patent in the things you're mentioning, so for SwiftKey or any other keyboard to not include a feature just because Thumb Keyboard includes it is just silly.

      Btw, I use TK on my XOOM, and I love the layout, but predictions are pretty bad. I will be switching to SwiftKey as soon as they release a tablet version (which, I'm sure, you will say they've copied off you as well).

  • Appelflap

    Patent isn't the point here. The point is the climat on the market. If no keyboard on the market had this for years (like the other good keyboards like Smartkeyboard etc) it is clear evidence that a company as SwiftKey is just sitting and waiting..
    That makes it paralizing. And that's the point here.

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Welcome to the competitive market. You have to stay ahead of the pack if you want to be the best, otherwise the competition will outpace you.

  • Appelflap

    You are right. I have no problem with that. Only thing is that I learn that marketing can be a more interesting thing to invest in than research and development.

  • http://www.swiftkey.net/ Joe Braidwood

    Hi Appelflap, I'm Joe - the chief marketing officer of TouchType, the small company that make SwiftKey.

    I've just got to chip in and agree with Artem that I found your comments fairly disproportionate. We welcome competition on the Android Market, and what's so great about Android is that any developer can create an app and get it out there with zero marketing spend.

    But to allege that we're copying your ideas is to completely miss the point. Arrow keys are, quite frankly, the least interesting part of this new version of SwiftKey (in my view). What makes SwiftKey incredible is the prediction engine, which as Artem points out is the core of our business. UI features are just incidental to that.

    The same is true of splitting the layout on a touchscreen tablet. This is an obvious thing to do; it is certainly not something we copied. Touchscreens are very hard to type on when you hold them with two hands, such as on the Xoom, and the obvious thing is to split the keys. This dates way back to the Microsoft natural keyboard, and innovations before that, and so I find it funny that you think we've copied that concept. We came up with it independently, as any smart UI person would given a few minutes to think about it. So good work on also coming to this great conclusion!

    So please, do not worry about our UI features. We're mainly, as Artem also points out, responding to user requests. What we care about more than anything else is creating a prediction engine that is truly game-changing, and that's what we will continue to focus on.

    Cheers,
    Joe

    • Andre

      I don't have a Honeycomb tablet yet, so I can't test this for myself--does SwiftKey have a standard, non-split keyboard for conventional 10-finger touch typing? I'm sure thumb typing is an ideal solution for 7" tablets, but on a 10" tablet, I'd much rather touch type than thumb type. That's what I'm used to on the iPad.

    • Appelflap

      Hi Joe,

      Unfortunately I have to disagree about the game-changing part of your prediction engine. For tablets and good keyboard layouts, a prediction system that is thinking one or (what easily can be done) two or three steps ahead, is intervening with natural typing.

      Think of a normal PC keyboard, don't you think that prediction algorithms of the kind you try to sell disturb the user, instead of helping him/her?

      Anyway, for real tiny screens your keyboard is amazing. Keep up the good job.

      Cheers,
      Paul