Most of you have probably heard of theoretical physicist and author Stephen Hawking, one of the most high-profile scientists in the world. Hawking suffers from a rare condition related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis that leaves him with extremely limited movement; for the last few decades he has used a customized mobile computer and a voice synthesizer to speak and write with tiny muscular actions. The latest version of his personal setup was created with the help of Intel and SwiftKey, and the keyboard software developer detailed the process on its company blog.
SwiftKey has been my go-to keyboard on every Android device I've owned for the last...long time. Google's stock keyboard keeps getting better and better, but it just can't seem to match what SK can do, and every time it gets close, the SwiftKey guys generally push an update that puts it back in the lead by a large margin.
Today's update, though, is something else altogether. This is probably the most significant update to SwiftKey in the last several months, possibly even longer.
With Android Lollipop, Google gave the keyboard its biggest visual refresh since the release of Honeycomb. If you like the look but don't particulary care to use the default input method, you have to wait for third-party keyboards to jump on board themselves. SwiftKey already introduced a couple Material Design-inspired themes in the past, but now it's back with five more.
In the newest theme pack, you get three new colors to work with: Material Orange, Material Phosphor Green, and Material Pink.
The SwiftKey folks have released a new version of the popular third-party keyboard that comes with support for thirteen new Indian languages bundled in, but it's all still tucked away in beta form. Users who download the 5.1 beta will get access to Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Nepali, and Sinhala (Nepali and Sinhala are not Indian languages but SwiftKey opted to lump them in because they belong to the same Indo-Aryan language family).
The last few SwiftKey updates have been focused on making the keyboard faster and more responsive, which has been sorely needed for some time. Whether or not that has been successful depends on who you ask, but the developers have now rolled out another update that is supposed to offer additional performance boosts. Maybe this one will do the trick.
Android L has brought a new version of the Google Keyboard with Material Design and an optional white KitKat theme, but if you're an avid fan of Swiftkey, its predictions, and themes, or any other third-party alternative, you will notice that the option to select your keyboard is now down in the right corner of the navigation bar, instead of the notification drop-down.
The new placement makes a lot more sense, because keyboard selection isn't a notification, is it?
Good news: if you've been holding out on buying the premium version of SwiftKey for some reason, it's now officially free. The former trial version is gone from the Play Store, leaving only the once-paid version of the keyboard for all to download and use.
SwiftKey told us that moving forward it's going to focus on having the release cycle halved, so oft-requested features will make it into finalized builds much faster.
The SwiftKey developers are getting ready to introduce a version of their popular third-party keyboard with Japanese input support. Prominent features should transition over just fine, with the keyboard still able to make personalized predictions and suggest emoji that it thinks may be appropriate. It will be able to switch back and forth between Japanese and English, making it useful for native Japanese speakers and friends of Japanese speakers alike.
The app is currently in beta, but it's open for anyone to download and try.