Over a year ago, we covered some of the best available replacement keyboards for Android devices. Many of those keyboards are still fantastic options, but they’ve been updated to include great new features, and other keyboards have hit the Play Store that are just a little better than what was available a year ago. Keyboards are still just as important as always, so we’re going to give you an up-to-date guide on the best of what’s available.
SwiftKey made our list last time, and it’s done nothing but improve since then, including knocking out one of its biggest flaws; a separate phone and tablet application. The text prediction and autocorrect on SwiftKey is top notch, doing things as simple as correcting minor typos and as complex as predicting your next word in your sentence. It also has plenty of extra features and customization behind it.
SwiftKey pulls information from your text messages, email account, and social media sites (if you allow it) to improve its text prediction functions. If you frequently ask “What’s for dinner?” for example, typing “What’s” will lead to SwiftKey predicting “for dinner” as the next two words instead of suggesting “What’s up” or something similar. These algorithms work even if you don’t let it pull data from your personal stuff, too. The more you type, the more SwiftKey learns about you, so it’ll pick up on your common typos and phrases anyway. It can be pretty scary to see how well SwiftKey can predict what you’re trying to say based on just a few letters you type.
SwiftKey also has a very functional flow-style of typing, where you simply drag your finger around the keyboard, Swype style. A unique feature here is that you can type entire sentences without lifting your finger by dragging your finger to the spacebar between words, which can potentially speed up your typing. On top of all of the swiping and auto correcting features, SwiftKey also throws in a ton of customization options to suit your typing style. You can adjust your keyboard in several different ways, including altering the key height and width, tossing a row of number keys on top of the keyboard, putting arrow keys on the keyboard, and splitting up the keys across your screen, which is extremely helpful on tablets and larger screens. There are also 14 currently available themes in SwiftKey, and more get added over time.
Speaking of the tablet keyboard, one of the biggest problems with SwiftKey before was that it had separate apps for phones and tablets. If you wanted to use the same keyboard across all of your devices, you’d have to purchase the app twice. Now, they’ve consolidated everything into one app, and with the addition of SwiftKey’s cloud services, everything stays synced up to boot.
For $3.99, SwiftKey offers one of the best keyboards available for Android devices. It’s hard to top the sheer accuracy and prediction that this keyboard offers, even though it isn’t the most flexible in terms of themes and the like. Still, if you can live with the admittedly good preset themes, you should definitely give this a try, if you haven’t already.
Kii Keyboard didn’t make our list last time around, and many of you thought that it was better than some of the other keyboards we did pick. Thanks to an insane amount of flexibility and functionality, it made the cut this time.
Kii Keyboard offers enough customization tweaks that setting it up is almost like building a personalized keyboard from scratch. You can adjust the smallest details, like whether or not you want to use a QWERTY keyboard, a Dvorak keyboard, or what two languages you want the keyboard to support. The developer has added in support for roughly 34 languages in Kii Keyboard, so if you need a very specific set of languages in your keyboard, you should be covered. You can adjust user dictionaries for text expansion (typing LOL fills out to “laugh out loud” for example) and emojis, and then figure out if you want Kii to handle spell correction or not and whether or not you want Kii to learn from your typing style. Keep in mind, this is just the nitty gritty stuff that determines how the keyboard will work. It gets even more diverse in the theme section.
Setting up the layout and theme of the keyboard touches on just about everything you could want to change about your keyboard. Kii offers six different configurations for keyboard layouts, and you can use different layouts for portrait and landscape orientations. You can change when arrow keys show up on your keyboard, and adjust the stored smileys in the smiley key to fit your liking. Aside from the layout, you can select from a handful of different built-in themes for your keyboard, and with the premium version of the app, you can change the background color of the keyboard and download designer themes separately from what’s included in the app.
As far as the actual typing goes, Kii works really, really well, offering a mash-up of popular features from other major keyboards. Swype-like input, great auto-prediction, and being able to use the most comfortable keyboard layout for your screen make it a very solid option. The premium version of the app runs about 4 bucks, so it’s on par with SwiftKey.
If you need a customizable keyboard, Kii is tough to beat. It fills just about every need you could possibly have when it comes to customization. The downside? It makes Kii feel like a jack-of-all-trades, master of nothing deal. The autocorrect and predictions are great, but they aren’t SwiftKey. The swiping to type is great, but it’s not quite as well done as Swype itself. The customization is awesome, but it’s incredibly easy to get bogged down in settings and sliders trying to perfect everything. If you’re looking for a keyboard that has everything and you don’t mind spending some extra time getting it set up, Kii Keyboard is your perfect match.
In the middle of last year, Google released Android’s default keyboard onto the Play Store. Prior to that, users had to use third-party keyboards that were either compiled from AOSP or pulled from Nexus devices and uploaded to the Play Store to get that truly stock Android feeling. Now that you can get the real deal from Google itself, and it gets updated with new Android features, too.
The Google Keyboard itself is pretty basic. You get Android’s built-in autocorrection, some fairly simply text prediction, and an incredibly clean interface. Plus, since it’s updated directly from Google, you get newer features pretty quickly after they get announced. White KitKat theme? Check. Emoji support? Check. It’s nothing as revolutionary as what you’ll see on some other keyboards, but you have peace of mind knowing that you’re pretty much guaranteed to get the smaller features of new Android apps without having to wait for an official device update.
That’s not to say that there isn’t some customization with Google Keyboard. You can swap between the white and blue themed keyboards, depending on your preference for KitKat or Jelly Bean, and you can alter the volume and vibration of a keypress. There’s also a tweak for changing how long you have to hold down a key in milliseconds before you get to the alternate keys, so speedy typists can set that value pretty low to avoid having to wait in the middle of a sentence to hit a number key. Plus, you get the fantastic Google Voice typing built right in.
If you know you like stock Android but can’t or don’t want to root your device and install an AOSP ROM (or buy a Nexus device), installing this keyboard can get you one step closer to the experience that Google wanted you to have.
Swype was the first keyboard to introduce the unique style of typing that involved sliding your finger across letters as opposed to actually tapping words out. Since Swype came out, most other keyboards have adopted its unique style of text input, including major players like Google and SwiftKey. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right?
Even though many other keyboards use a similar type of text input, they still don’t quite do things as well as Swype does. The accuracy and prediction from Swype are still head and shoulders over things like SwiftKey Flow and Google’s own sliding keyboard imitation. It’s not that the other options are bad by any means, but Swype really is that much better. After typing out a sentence, for instance, Swype analyzes the entire sentence for possible errors and underlines them, giving you options for possible corrections. While that sentence analysis approach doesn’t prevent as many errors as, say, SwiftKey, it does make errors much, much quicker to fix.
One of the reasons Swype does this analysis so well is because it uses Nuance’s Dragon software for speech recognition. If any of you have played with a Moto X, you know that Dragon understands speech and sentences extremely well. Thanks to this integration, Swype’s voice dictation also uses Dragon instead of Google, which is a fantastic experience. Google’s voice typing is pretty great, but Dragon is absolutely fantastic. If you’re looking for a keyboard solely for voice dictation, Swype deserves a look for the Dragon integration alone, if nothing else.
Swype also takes on social media and cloud processing by pulling hotwords from crowd-sourced information to create a “living language” experience. If a certain trend or phrase is popular at the moment, like a movie title, Swype will be more likely to predict that phrase if it thinks you’re trying to talk about it. This is a fairly useful feature if you talk about a lot of pop culture media that can be a hassle to type otherwise.
As a bonus, Swype is now available in the Play Store, which is a step up from its situation a year ago. It runs $3.99, which seems to be the sweet spot for keyboard pricing. There’s a free trial if you’re still unsure about it, but since its early days, Swype has really turned into one of the best keyboards available.
Minuum is probably the craziest keyboard on this list, but it’s easily one of the most innovative, too. Most keyboards take up a big chunk of your phone screen space while typing, which is great for accuracy, but not so great if you actually like to look at that large screen you paid a ton of money for. Minuum solves that by crunching up a QWERTY keyboard into a tiny little bar at the bottom of the screen.
At first glance, it’s easy to think “There is no way I can accurately type on that thing,” and that’s true. Minuum isn’t designed for accurate typing, but instead for fast typing with some aggressive autocorrect. It’s a weird transition if you’re coming from a traditional keyboard, but it makes for a very unique and very rewarding typing experience.
Of course, with a small keyboard like this, there’s not much room for customization. If aesthetics mean a lot to you in your choice of keyboard, Minuum may not be a great option. However, if you just need something fast and functional, it’s absolutely worth a test drive. Typing is easy and the autocorrect takes care of sloppy mistakes. There’s a magnifying feature on the keyboard for when you need to hit very precise letters, like when you’re typing a password, and there is a gesture for pulling Minuum up into a traditional full-size keyboard.
As a bonus, a very unique feature, Minuum claims to work on wearable devices, too, like smartwatches. Obviously that shouldn’t make or break your decision about using this on your phone or tablet, but if you like to tinker with an Android-based wearable, hey, give it a shot.
Minuum is available on the Play Store for $3.99 with a free trial. Definitely give the free trial a go before you spend any money on this keyboard, because it is still a really weird thing to use.
Fleksy is a breath of fresh air in a market that’s crowded with keyboards that pile on tons and tons of features. Instead, it offers a very trimmed down typing experience based on intelligent predictions and gestures. It’s so simple that it actually doesn’t even have a punctuation key.
Typing on Fleksy is a fantastic experience. Instead of taking a normal approach and correcting misspelled words, Fleksy analyzes where you actually tapped on the screen to try and guess what you were trying to say. It also uses a similar strategy as SwiftKey by analyzing your social media data to try and make typing predictions, which never hurts. All of these factors make Fleksy one of the best keyboards for sloppy typists.
You won’t find a lot of customization within Fleksy, but you can adjust the height of the keyboard to try and get yourself back some screen real estate. You can slim it down to just three lines instead of the usual four, and you can go so far as to make the keyboard completely invisible so you can see everything on your screen. If it was any other keyboard, that would be a really bad decision, but since Fleksy manages gestures and typing as well as it does, it’s actually not a bad experience. As a side note, Fleksy also has 30 badges for you to collect while you’re typing, like “Invisible Master” which is earned by using that invisible keyboard. The badges don’t really do anything, but they’re fun to show off to friends, and they give you a nifty way to track your typing stats.
If you’re the kind of person that really needs aggressive autocorrect, Fleksy should be high on your list. The typing analysis and social data really helps it compete with the best keyboards, and it removes a lot of the clutter from a keyboard, like punctuation keys and voice dictation keys. It’s simple, clean, and worth trying out. Like nearly every other keyboard, it runs $3.99 on the Play Store.
What keyboard have you been using for the past year? One of these on this list, or something else that we missed? Let us know in the comments.