By Max Parker
How to choose the best Android keyboard
If you're looking for the best Android keyboard app, search no more. We've listed the best to help you decide which is best.
We've selected some of the best keyboards available on Android devices. But before you download them, it's a good idea to work out what sort of typer you are. Some people love swanky swipe interfaces, whereas others feel more comfortable with more tactile traditional keyboards. On top of those are some really odd keyboards which do something a little different. Switching between the various keyboards can be a bit of a pain, but if you tap the menu key on your device, choose “Settings” and then go to “Language & keyboard” you'll be able to choose which ones are active, and which one is currently set as the default.
Stuck on which Android phone to buy? Our Android buying guide should help you out.
Like SlideIT and Swype, TouchPal incorporates a swipe-based interface on top of the standard keyboard. This one includes a nice sparkly trail animation when you swipe, making it look more like you're casting a spell in Hogwarts than typing out words on your phone. TouchPal's big selling point is its “Curve” predictive text, which means you don't have to swipe out long words in full for it to finish them. In theory this makes entering text faster, but in practise it led to woefully inaccurate sentences: “lets” became “let's” (annoying for grammar fiends) and “alter” became “Adler”. Better implemented is its ability to automatically detect which language you're typing in based on the installed dictionaries: it actually worked well enough for a few bilingual messages. Another nice feature is that numbers and punctuation marks are entered by swiping up and down on the relevant keys, rather than long-pressing them, making their input faster and slicker. Even if the swiping was a let-down, and the least accurate we've seen, TouchPal's other features more than make up for this failing.
Free | Download | T3 review: 3/5
Adaptxt's spacious and airy layout and translucent graphics make it look and feel like something you'd find on a premium laptop – albeit in a virtual form. Adaptxt also includes a handful of incredibly useful features. At the time of writing the Olympics are about to begin, and typing sports related keywords lights a light bulb icon at the bottom of the screen which takes you straight to the relevant Wikipedia page. There's also an incredibly handy option to post whatever you're writing straight to Twitter or Facebook without having to launch the relevant apps, which is great if you're midway through a witty text or email. On top of that there's the ability to remove accents and diacritics, which add extra characters to text messages – something we naively didn't realise .Adaptxt is an innovative and super-smart keyboard, and one of the best we've come across. There's even a private mode so certain words and phrases won't be stored in its dictionary, making it ideal if you share your phone or tablet with someone else.
Free | Download | T3 review: 5/5
Boot up GO keyboard and you're presented with an interface that's more akin to a game than something that's used for inputting letters. It includes the “GO Market”, where users can download new themes and hundreds of smiley-style emoticons, known as “Emoji”. Users can add special characters and sounds to their messages, and even completely revamp their entire phones. Underneath all these superfluous add-ons lies a solid keyboard, though, and one that's capable of supporting many languages, including Chinese handwriting. It can also switch between language sat the touch of a button, making it essential for people who switch between English and their native tongue. It followed our keystrokes accurately, but predictive text is switched off by default – perhaps to make room for the sheer amount of tie-in apps and features GO Keyboard so eagerly promotes above the keyboard. A nice touch is a dedicated selection screen, which uses lovely big arrow keys to make highlighting and copying text a doddle. All GO Keyboard's content seems to be completely free – for now.
Free | Download | T3 review: 3/5
SlideIT takes its influence from Swype, by which we mean it completely copies it. The swipe-based input is basically exactly the same, interpreting your keyboard doodles into words with a fairly decent degree of accuracy. But SlideIt does have a trick up its sleeve to set itself apart from its progenitor and competitor. Its clever – if gimmicky – feature is the ability to “draw” numbers and characters on a virtual laptop-style touchpad. It just about works, but it would be better if it was able to capture the entire alphabet with this method. This touchpad is also relegated to a tiny corner of the screen – we'd like to see it take up the entire keyboard space. SlideIT's initial layout feels tacky and overdone, with hard-to-read“3D” keys. Fortunately there are many alternative skins available on the Play Store, but most are quite garish. We'd really like to see Thumb Keyboard's extreme and intricate levels of colour customisation here.
Free | Download | T3 review: 3/5
Smart Keyboard doesn't include any gimmicks such as predictive phrases or swipe-based typing, but it's a solid and substantial offering nevertheless. There's a free trial available on the Play Store, and the only difference between this and the full version (£1.95) is an occasional nag screen to annoy you into buying it. A really nice feature of Smart Keyboard is the ability to adjust the height of the keys. With other keyboards this is done with some pre-defined defaults, but Smart Keyboard uses sliders for an infinitesimal degree of customisation. This means you can have nice big keys if you struggle to see or hit standard ones or really small ones if you want to increase your screen's real estate. Smart Keyboard ships with an iPhone-style keyboard by default, and it works just as well as Apple's sleek and fluid option. There are other options for specific devices such as HTC or Galaxy smartphones, as well as standard Android offerings. If you really want to get your hands dirty it supports an open-source keyboard format which means you can create your own, and even use these with other keyboards.
Price: £1.76 or Free trial | Download | T3 review: 4/5
SwiftKey has been our default keyboard for many years, and it's just got better and better. Its unique selling point is its ability to predict what you're about to type based on previous emails, texts, Facebook updates and Tweets, and it works remarkably well. In fact, it's almost spooky in the way it works out what you're about to type next. The result is that you barely even have to try to type and you soon realise that most of your communications consist of a few key words or phrases. It's astonishingly quick for exactly this reason, although we can understand some people's reluctance to let the software sift through all your private emails and texts. There are a few problems, notably one with the Chrome browser which is being worked on at the time of writing. It also only comes with a handful of skins and the layout can't be customised. There's dedicated tablet version of SwiftKey, but this has to be bought separately on Google Play. Somehow, though, Swiftkey is still our favourite keyboard, if only for the fact that it makes entering text on a wee screen so incredibly easy.
Price: £2.99 | Download | T3 review: 4/5
The original swipe-based keyboard is still the best. It comes preinstalled on some Samsung devices, while it's also available on the Play Store. Once it's installed you'll find a smooth and accurate swiping experience, which can even work out which words you're trying to input if you miss the letters by miles. It's got a host of extra features, such as handwriting recognition (which actually works) and well-hidden shortcuts. Swype will also “learn” favourite words from your emails, texts and Tweets, which means you won't struggle with unusual friends' names or interesting spelling variations. Speech recognition is also included, but this is Swype's weakest feature and we couldn't get it to pick up our vocalisations.
Price: 65p | Download | T3 review: 5/5
” Ergonomics” was a big buzz word in the mid-90s, and Microsoft exploited the crippling fear of RSI by creating a keyboard that was split down the middle, making it easier to reach keys and type words. Thumb Keyboard is the Android equivalent of Microsoft's keyboard, and it similarly splits the keyboard and spacebar in two, placing the arrow keys in the centre. The advent of large Android tablets makes this split a useful feature; no longer will you have to awkwardly reach across the device to reach the “G” key. And although the layout looks a little befuddling at first, it's surprising intuitive and fluid, especially if you're used to using your phone in landscape orientation. It's incredibly customisable, too, boasting separate keyboard layouts for different orientations, as well as the option to switch between the two. There are also settings for specific tablets, such as5-inch “phablets” and vast 10-inchers.Full colour customisation, predictive text and the ability to create accustom toolbar round off a substantial and useful offering, and it'snigh-on essential if you're using a tablet device. It costs 99p whereas other keyboards are free, but that's the price you pay for “ergonomics”.
Price: £1.87 | Download | T3 review: 4/5