Review by Andrew Kameka on Thursday October 17, 2013.
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SwiftKey, a popular keyboard replacement application for Android smartphones and tablets, has released a beta app that will give users more control over how their keyboard appears, and remove the need to purchase multiple versions of the app. SwiftKey currently lists a phone keyboard and a separately sold Tablet Keyboard, each of which cost $3.99. SwiftKey 4.3 will merge those two apps into one.
Version 4.3, built around a "Layouts for Living" theme, is more than just adding features from one app to another. SwiftKey has introduced new layouts that make adjustments based on user preference, so someone can have a keyboard divided into two panels or have the keyboard repositioned. This benefits not only tablets, but smartphones with large displays as well. The main point to stress is that the keyboard adapts to positioning and device in a way that best suits users.
On my Nexus 7 and Galaxy Note 3, SwiftKey looks like any other keyboard when held in portrait mode. It supports Flow to swipe across letters to create word, highly accurate word prediction, and spot-on autocorrect. Tapping the SwiftKey settings button lets me change things further by switching between Full, Thumb, or Compact displays. Full is the standard view spread across the screen, Thumb makes smaller keys that are split into two groups for thumb-friendly typing, and Compact shrinks the keyboard to a smaller size that's more manageable for one-handed typing. The practicality of Compact may be difficult because some phones with large screens that would most benefit from it are difficult to hold with one hand, but those capable of holding such a device with a large hand no longer need to reach as far to access certain keys.
Beyond the different types of settings, SwiftKey also makes it possible to reposition the keyboard so that it is on the left, right, center, or even floating higher up. Keeping with its flexibility theme, the layouts and positioning remain for each orientation. In other words, someone can set a tablet to use Thumb mode when held in landscape, but the Compact mode will work for portrait.
SwiftKey is currently in a public beta. Android users can download the app and test it out before it officially arrives in Google Play. There are some known issues and more bugs will likely be discovered during the testing process.
SwiftKey tablet (Thumb)
Andrew is based in Miami, Florida.