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4 best Android virtual keyboards

by Derek Walter

January 23 2014

SwiftKey is one of several choices for Android users.
SwiftKey is one of several choices for Android users.

Android is all about choice, and this is especially apparent in the variety of alternative virtual onscreen keyboards available for Android devices.

While on the iPad you are stuck with what Apple gives you, the Google Play Store is stocked with many excellent choices.

SwiftKey

SwiftKey was one of the primary drivers in my switch from an iPhone to Android. Its strength lies in how it learns your writing patterns and returns astonishingly accurate predictions. After using it for a while you will be able to write full sentences by just tapping on the suggested word. It is very useful for those phrases that people tend to use regularly, like “thanks for getting in touch” or “I’ll talk to you later.” In all it is an excellent alternative to the bundled keyboard on an Android tablet.

By giving SwiftKey access to your Gmail and other online accounts it can further analyze your writing style (without sharing your personal information, the company promises).

Swiftkey was a Tabby Awards finalist in the Personal Productivity category in 2013.

Swype

Swype pioneered gesture-based typing, and it still leads the pack when it comes to this input method. The keyboard auto-suggests words while dragging your finger across the keyboard giving fairly accurate results for everyday words. Swype also crowd sources trending words and regularly updates the keyboard in an effort to make predictions easier.

This method of typing is not for everyone, as using Swype is less effective for obscure words or names. However, Swype the keyboard does include a traditional touch-type method for inputting specific words. It It also works with Dragon Dictation, allowing you to dictate words with your voice. 

Tablet users benefit from Swype’s split keyboard for tablet users and other configuration choices, such as a QWERTZ or AZERTY layout for for European users (Dvorak enthusiasts are out of luck).

(For more Android news, trends, apps and reviews, sign up for the free TabTimes for Android newsletter)

ai.type Keyboard Plus

Just like its competitors, ai.type uses autocorrect and your usage patterns to make typing on a touch-screen device less painful. It distinguishes itself through a wide variety of customization options, which includes the ability to remove or rearrange letters for a customized keyboard. It also checks your grammar while typing, which is certainly useful during email messages.

The design is also significantly flatter than other keyboards, which in my opinion makes for a good-looking aesthetic.

Google Keyboard

Google has vastly improved its own keyboard, making it a consistent choice for tablet users. It has good spacing between keys and much improved sound effects when typing. Find the “advanced options” tab in the settings to weak the keystroke color or turn off vibration when typing.

Much like the iOS keyboard you can create personal shortcuts for frequently used words. As an example, you could tell Google to write “TabTimes” every time you type “tb.” Even though it is built by Google, Android’s wildly fragmented ecosystem means your Android device may not come with it installed.

If you are looking for a free, sensible keyboard that is not going to overwhelm you with features then Google Keyboard is a good choice.

More Android tablet apps, tips and reviews at TabTimes.com/android

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