This week in Android keyboards isn’t a real column, but based on the extremely vibrant market for such products it likely could be.
Three of the platform’s most popular third-party keyboards, SwiftKey, Fleksy and Swype each received significant updates or new versions this week, so let’s take a look.
SwiftKey released a version for Japanese speakers (typists?) this week with key improvements to the typing and prediction experience for those users. The company claims it has an in-house team of Japanese engineers — which is amazing — and has been working on this product for some time. One of those engineers, Yoh Okuno, is the creator of the Japanese Social IME, a prediction engine used by millions of Android users already.
The app also supports something called Heatmap, a way to give Japanese typers a “visual representation of how they type, and game-changing autocorrection,” which stands to benefit those learning the language for the first time.
While this functionality will likely eventually be integrated into the main SwiftKey app, the beta is a solo affair, though it does come with English support for those users who vacillate between the two languages. Of course, emoji prediction is built-in, along with SwiftKey Flow.
Fleksy issued updates to its iOS and Android apps today, mainly updating the mainline prediction engine that powers. The relatively new keyboard startup eschews many of the design flourishes of other keyboards in favour of a more streamlined, gesture-based input system. This new method can lead to fast typing results, as the company announced one of its users broke the Guinness World Record for world’s fastest keyboard.
Swype announced a big update to its Android app, though it mostly resolves outstanding issues such as a rendering issue for Samsung devices running KitKat and other nagging bugs. The new version does add hardware acceleration for modern devices, making it faster and smoother to dismiss the keyboard once it pops up.
Finally, a circular, resizable keyboard concept called SwipeWheel was released to YouTube last week. The Android app has not been released yet, but the developer took to XDA to explain his design justifications and drum up hype for the upcoming product.