There are many keyboard apps for Android Phones and Tablets available on Google Play and at third party websites. Sometimes choosing the right keyboard can be quite difficult especially with the innumerable choices we have. I am going to tell you about the top three keyboards that you can get for free and analyse their features.

Alright, here we go then.

1. Swype

Swype is probably the most popular free keyboard on Android devices. It comes pre-loaded on a few devices while others can download it for free by registering for an account at their website. Swype, as the name suggests uses a “Swipe to input” style, instead of the traditional tap-to-input keyboards. The user slides a finger from a  letter to another letter thus forming a word.  This makes Swype one of the fastest input methods on Android, the other of-course being Voice-Input. Speaking of voice-input, Swype has that too,  and all you have to is tap the Flame shaped button on the keyboard and just speak the content and watch as the text appears on the screen.

Swype main UI

 

Swype Landscape

Swype automatically inserts spaces between words and inserts a period when you double tap space. It also has a built-in dictionary for the language you select and you can enable automatic updates by selecting “Living Updates” to stay update with new words. Swype allows you to add and delete custom words, email-ids, phone numbers to the dictionary. Another handy feature in Swype is the use of Gestures. This is useful when you want to switch between text input and numerical input to enter a phone number, it also has various shortcuts to edit the text (cut, copy and paste) etc which can be found by long pressing on the Swype key on the bottom left of the Keyboard.

If the built-in prediction auto-corrects a new word, just tap backspace and you’ll see the word on the word-bar, tap on it to get it back an.You can also sign-in to Facebook, Twitter, and Gmail to allow Swype to add your Contact names to your user dictionary.

Swype has handwriting input too, enable it from settings and you will see a pencil button on the botton row. Tapping it will allow you to write letters,words and you can switch to number input too. It’s amazingly accurate in recognising your writing but it doesn’t seem to have auto-spacing and the other features. Definitely not for someone who texts much, but still a fun way to write.

A recent update from the developers added the most demanded feature in Swype, themes. And they’re quite beautiful.

Swype Themes

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You can optionally choose to backup your user dictionary with Swype Connect. You can also do this with Titanium Backup if you are rooted.

Tip: If you use a phone with a limited internal memory space, you can move the Swype Installer to your SD Card and leave the main Swype app on the internal memory.

You have to register for a free account at http://beta.swype.com/ to download the Swype installer and then download the actual keyboard.

Here is a good video which shows you how to use Swype:

Pros:

  • Auto-correction.
  • Supports multiple languages.
  • Gesture shortcuts.
  • Next word prediction.
  • Handwriting input.
  • Voice input.
  • Built-in themes.

Cons:

  • Older devices may find Swype to be laggy at times.
  • Slightly large application size for a keyboard, perhaps due to the additional language dictionaries it comes with.

2. TouchPal Keyboard

TouchPal Keyboard is similar to Swype as it uses the “Slide to input” style. The word prediction in TouchPal Keyboard is not as accurate as Swype, but it has definitely improved since version 4 which was released a year ago.

TouchPal UI

 

TouchPal Landscape

TouchPal Keyboard can learn your Contact names, and also learn your typing style from Text messages and Twitter. This would help you in adding custom words to the user dictionary. It also comes with a spell check function and auto-correct. Although, auto-correct in TouchPal comes with one flaw, if you type a word that’s not in the dictionary,  and continue writing, it will erase the word and insert the closest word depending on what letters you typed and we have to re-type the entire word.Another advanced feature in this keyboard is the next word prediction which allows you to complete sentences by just entering the first word and tapping space. Similar to what SwiftKey, a paid keyboard does.

Tip: Slide on the spacebar to turn prediction on/off.

You can add custom words by manually typing it and tapping to “Touch to save” or by tapping on the word and selecting ” + add to dictionary” from the drop down menu.  This menu also displays word suggestions and has a delete button. You can change the case of the word from upper to lower and vice-versa by tapping on the word and selecting the shift key and selecting the desired word from the suggestion bar.

Tip: Slide left from the backspace key to delete the word.

The toolbar in TouchPal Keyboard is probably unique. The first button in the toolbar allows access to the keyboard’s settings and selecting skins. The second button is perhaps the most productive option in the keyboard which has editing options like Cut, Copy and Paste, and arrow keys.

Tapping the number key on the bottom row takes you to three different key layouts which has numbers, symbols and smileys. The Smiley layout also has url shortcuts like “http:// .www .com .net” which are useful when you want to send a link or typing a website address in the browser.

Tip: Long pressing the number key on the bottom row takes you to the Smiley layout.

Gestures can help us to type faster. You can watch the tutorial from the settings on how to use them but I’ll list a couple of them. Slide up on a key with numbers to input the number, and slide down on a key with a symbol to input the symbol.

TouchPal Keyboard allows you to customize the keyboard in different ways, including Skins and the size of the keyboard.

TouchPal KB iphone theme

Here is a video which shows you the features of Touchpal 5:

Pros:

  • Many beautiful skins to choose from.
  • Auto-correction.
  • Can use slide input or tap to input.
  • Gesture shortcuts to switch between numbers/symbols and text.
  • Supports many languages.
  • Can backup and restore user dictionary.

Cons:

  • Prediction is not accurate, especially in slide input.
  • You have to re-type a new word in case the built-in prediction auto-corrected it.
  • Doesn’t learn new words automatically.
  • Cannot edit the user dictionary

Download TouchPal Keyboard from Google Play

3. Ice Cream Sandwich Keyboard (by VLLWP)

I tested a few of the Ice Cream Sandwich keyboards available at Google Play before deciding that the one by VLLWP is the best of the lot. It has two important features that the other ICS Keyboards lack or do not offer in the free version,  User Dictionary Management and Themes. Basically this keyboard is a back port of the official Ice Cream Sandwich Keyboard, and is the only ICS Keyboard which works on devices with Android 1.6(Donut) and above.

ICS KB Main

 

ICS Landscape

Here is a video which shows you some of the features of the ICS Keyboard:

Pros:

  • Auto Capitalization.
  • Built-in Themes.
  • User Dictionary Management.
  • Voice Input.
  • Auto Correction.
  • Multiple languages available for download.

Cons:

  • No next word prediction.
  • Lacks customization of layouts/keys.

Note: When you access this keyboard’s settings, it prompts you to try their Jelly Bean Keyboard, which I did not feature in this review, because the Jelly Bean keyboard has ads and has few customizations.

Download Ice Cream Sandwich Keyboard from Google Play.

Final Verdict:

Everyone’s keyboard needs are different. Some may hate swipe input while others hate to keep tapping on keys to enter words. Accuracy, speed and prediction play a key part here.

I think Swype is the best when it comes to free keyboards. It really has everything you need in a keyboard.

Here are some other good keyboards that you could try:

  • Ice Cream Sandwich Keyboard and Jellybean Keyboard ( by JohnTanmi)
  • Ice Cream Sandwich Keyboard (by BinaryBulge)
  • Perfect Keyboard Free
  • MultiLing Keyboard
  • Jellybean Keyboard Free (has ads)
  • AnySoftKeyboard
  • Hacker’s Keyboard

So which keyboard do you use on your device and why do like it? Share it with us by dropping a comment below.


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