As smartphones progress along with time, there’s one feature that’s begun to be dropped on most every smartphone, a physical keyboard. Instead, the mechanical click of a physical keyboard has been replaced by large, high-resolution displays with all sorts of virtual keyboards right on the screen. And along with smartphones, these virtual keyboards also evolve with time.
One of the beauties of Android is the customization aspect. While many may argue that this isn’t really as big of a selling point as people make it out to be, the ability to change things on the fly to your liking is a feature that’s mostly unrivaled by other platforms. But one of the most valuable customizations comes through the keyboard. Oodles of options are available out there when looking for a virtual keyboard and each one usually has its own customizations. Some of the keyboards give you a pretty basic line-up when it comes to choices with just the standards such as vibration, sound, and maybe a couple of other choices. But then you find others that have all sorts of options from choosing your own theme and custom color for it to getting the precise millisecond for your keystroke.
From experience and simple common sense, it’s easy come to the conclusion that not every keyboard works for everyone. I’ve tried plenty of virtual keyboards (too many to name actually) and have found some that seem like the cream of the crop and others that I just don’t even understand why they were created. Often ones with unique features that have hardworking development teams excel in my book while keyboards that just try to show off their themes and skins don’t rank as high.
One of the ones that I’ve come to like after hating it for a long time is SwiftKey. For a long while I couldn’t bear to use SwiftKey. The keyboard and I just didn’t click as it didn’t do well with rapid multi-touch typing. It often butchered words when I wasn’t explicitly using the word prediction. I couldn’t get used to it and every time I gave it another chance, the relationship fell to pieces again. In fact, it wasn’t until SwiftKey 3 came around that I gave it another serious shot and begun my love affair with it.
After a couple days of acclimating to the new keyboard, I felt right at home. The layout was radically improved and rapid typing was now possible with a much more powerful auto-correct. But best of all was the combination of word prediction and auto-correct allowing things like misspelling two words and missing the space bar and yet having it correct them to the exact two words that were intended with proper regards to spacing and grammar. Typing became much simpler and one-handed typing also became easier due to the top-notch word prediction which even managed to correctly predict entire sentences. A nice Holo theme overlay and I was set and ready to go with it.
But of course, SwiftKey isn’t the only keyboard I’ve ever used. In fact, one of my favorites was easily the multi-touch keyboard by Motorola on their Gingerbread and below phones. The keyboard almost always kept pace with my typing and usually had pretty accurate auto-correct. Unfortunately, it was tweaked after the update to Ice Cream Sandwich and I no longer enjoyed it. So I proceeded to switch around between keyboards for a little while before I finally settled on the Jelly Bean keyboard by Beansoft. It was the first Jelly Bean keyboard to be pulled from the APK and put on the Play Store and I quite enjoyed it. It was nice, decently fast, and had good autocorrect.
If I hearken back even farther though, back to my time with the Samsung Fascinate, I can remember using a keyboard called Smart Keyboard a lot. I enjoyed it a lot due to the sheer amount of customizations that you could do to change the look and feel. If I wanted a keyboard that looked like iOS but sounded like Windows Phone then I could have it. Perhaps I just wanted haptic feedback and a keyboard that looked like HTC’s offering. Done. It was what I was seeking in a keyboard then, I wanted something that I could change to look and sound like what I wanted it to be.
And then there was the one. The one that I never extensively used. Swype.
I gave Swype a try more than once. I saw the potential and the attraction but I never felt that it was executed very well. It wouldn’t often get the right word when I was swiping and standard typing just din’t work too well with its layout. But today brought a large new beta update to the keyboard and with it, the consistency that I needed to try using it again. And contrary to my thoughts, I’m actually quite enjoying it and haven’t had any trouble with it yet.
But all of this boils down to the question that I want to ask you. What virtual keyboard do you regularly use on your phone? In fact, have a second question. What ones have you tried and what have been some of the best and worst? The comments section below is itching for your input and for that matter, so am I, though not actually itching of course. So go ahead, give those typing fingers some exercise by expressing what you have to say down below.