Smartphone technology has advanced rapidly since
the dawn of the iPhone in 2007, but that doesn’t mean companies like Apple or
Samsung are always capable of delivering the best user experiences across every
feature and function their devices provide–even if what they do provide is,
for the most part, exceptional.
Photo editing and messaging are two such functions where we’ve seen outside software companies and tech giants swoop in to rescue users from native smartphone capabilities that don’t live up to consumers’ constantly evolving expectations.
The smartphone keyboard is yet another area
where people are ditching their smartphone defaults for other apps, thereby
improving the quality, efficiency and speed with which they type text messages,
emails and more.
While there is a litany of keyboard apps
available for download with Android and iOS, here are three offering unique
features and benefits that make them worth investigating first.
Gboard, from Google
Android users have been taking advantage of Google’s Gboard (previously Google Keyboard) for years, and it already comes stock with Google’s Pixel phones. iPhone users also have been shifting to this advanced keyboard app since it was introduced for iOS in 2014. For many, Gboard is the king of keyboard apps. Let’s explore a few of the standout reasons why.
Glide Typing enables you to swipe across letters on your keyboard to form words rather than pecking at letters with your thumbs (you can still peck with Gboard if you want to).
Other keyboard apps come equipped with similar swipe typing–in fact, Gboard wasn’t one of the original keyboard apps to include this functionality–however, what makes Gboard’s Glide Typing different is its elegance.
The aesthetic quality of Gboard’s Glide Typing
enhances its functional success by using a thinner tracing line that disappears
quickly, improving your ability to see what letters your gliding across to form
words. As you form words, Gboard will also show you relevant emojis, such as a
heart for “love.”
Gboard remembers these words to improve spelling
and search prediction as you use the keyboard app. Importantly, this data is
stored locally on your smartphone and isn’t made accessible to Google–as many
would suspect with Gboard coming from the largest Internet search company in
the world–or to other apps. You can easily clear this data in Keyboard
In-App Google Search
With in-app Google search, you have the benefits
of the Internet’s most powerful search engine at your fingertips. You can also
share your search results in messages with others.
Google search functionality in this keyboard app
goes well beyond simple keyword searches with text. You can access search for
other Google apps and platforms, including YouTube and Google Maps. All of this
content is able to be shared.
Gboard allows you to search using your voice or
by handwriting a search term. You can also search for images, manage past
searches, update your location and choose to avoid explicit images.
GIFs and More
Powered by Google search, Gboard allows you to
search for GIFs across the internet, rather than from one database. The keyboard
app also allows you to create your own GIFs. You also an abundance of unique
stickers, with the option to create your own, as well as text faces and the
ability to draw.
Gboard also allows you to choose from several
themes as well as adjust keyboard settings such as Glide Typing, Emoji
Suggestions, Auto-correction and more. Additionally, you can choose from around
85 languages to use.
SwiftKey, from Microsoft
Before Gboard, there was SwiftKey. Since 2009, TouchType, the makers of SwiftKey and now a subsidiary of Microsoft, has been improving the keyboard app with serious technological advancements like AI. Today, it’s still one of the top alternatives to stock keyboards and a strong competitor of Gboard.
As with Gboard, SwiftKey provides swipe typing
with its own function called Flow. While Gboard provides an elegant
experience–and SwiftKey’s isn’t far behind–the power the SwiftKey keyboard
app is in its predictive capabilities.
As SwiftKey learns your style and commonly used
words by using artificial intelligence to analyze how you type in Gmail,
Twitter, Facebook, and text messages, it improves how it corrects and predicts
language for you and for all users. This is a key way this keyboard app is
advancing its functionality for the betterment of users.
In addition to Flow, Flow Through Space allows you to form complete sentences without ever lifting your finger from the screen. This gesture input method from SwiftKey allows you to glide over letters to form words as you normally would, then glide down to the space bar to indicate you’re forming the next word.
As you do this, the keyboard app strings together the words in the display above so you can verify the sentence you’re forming is correct.
Swiftkey allows you to backup what you’ve typed
and sync your dictionary across devices, with the ability to restore your
dictionary in the future. But you also have the ability to remove data,
including “everything SwiftKey has learned about your writing style, including
any new words you have used,” the makers say.
Tap Map allows you to see how SwiftKey is
adjusting your keyboard based on how you type. Using artificial intelligence,
as you use SwiftKey, the keyboard app begins to sense your finger placement and
trajectory, henceforth adjusting the keyboard to accommodate for your
typing/swiping habits. This level of customization enables you to increase
speed and accuracy.
While Tap Map gives you a sense of how SwiftKey
is adapting to your habits to provide the best typing experience possible, it
goes one step further in helping you understand yourself and the keyboard app
as well through a litany of other usage stats.
From Productivity to Distance Types Using Flow
to Keystrokes Saved, SwiftKey’s Usage Stats show you how you’re improving with
its keyboard app, as well as how it’s helping you increase quality and speed
compared to the stock keyboard or other keyboard app you were previously using.
Beyond its advanced intelligence, SwiftKey
offers impressive customizations to help ensure anyone using this keyboard app
has an outstanding user experience.
While keyboard apps like Gboard also offer
multiple languages to type with, SwiftKey allows you to choose from around 150
languages, from English to Yiddish to Afrikaans and a long list of other
languages people speak around the world, truly making SwiftKey an internationally
applicable keyboard app.
Again, Gboard offers several themes to choose
from, including the ability to create your own, but SwiftKey’s several themes
for your keyboard–including several different background colors as well as the
ability to design your own theme by uploading your own image to use as the
background–are exceptionally elegant and often praised for being so.
Grammarly Keyboard, from
Grammarly, the company that makes Grammarly Keyboard, has been developing software to help people avoid–you guessed it–grammar mistakes since 2009. In essence, what makes this keyboard app unique compared to others is its focus on helping you type immaculate, error-free sentences.
Not everyone is a fan of keyboard apps that tout
swipe-typing as with Gboard’s Glide Typing or SwifKey’s Flow. Some of us are
traditionalists. We like our peck-texting. The problem with this, regardless of
how accurate you may be with pecking, is mistakes are bound to happen.
Grammarly Keyboard is a great solution for those who prefer to use traditional typing methods but want improved accuracy and higher quality correction (although swipe-typing is on is way, Grammarly says).
While stock keyboards provide auto-correct, it’s not at the level of what Grammarly Keyboard provides, especially considering its history as a grammar-obsessed software company.
Beyond just auto-correct, Grammarly Keyboard
- Contextual spelling
- Advanced punctuation
- Vocabulary enhancements
Unlike the pedantic grammarian who sat next to
you in school and loved to correct anyone and everyone, Grammarly Keyboard is
there to help you and then explain why it’s suggesting a change. With every
word it flags, the keyboard app alerts you and offers a polite explanation for
why: the word isn’t in the app’s dictionary.
If you think the word should be in your Personal
Dictionary, all you have to do is select “Learn” and Grammarly Keyboard will
add the word to your personal dictionary. Next time, grammarly won’t flag you
for using it.
While other keyboard apps may offer advanced artificial intelligence to learn your style and avoid auto-correcting you when you meant to spell “though” as “tho,” Grammarly Keyboard’s option to get granular and specify words you want it to remember is potentially even better.
Instead of letting the keyboard app learn about you, you literally teach it–or command it–to do what you want.
Not only will Grammarly Keyboard suggest words
like other keyboard apps, it also allows you to add to a personal dictionary
unique words with unique spellings that you would like it to suggest to you as
If you think about it, this is pretty flexible
for a keyboard app designed to help you write well with correct grammar, but
given we live in an age where proper grammar is becoming more and more
subjective, it’s a vital feature that ensures Grammarly Keyboard isn’t wasting
your time suggesting edits and getting in the way of your thoughts by trying to
tell you how to type.
Which Keyboard Do You Use?
While you may not want to have three or more different keyboards that you shift between on your smartphone, the reality is you can download all three of these keyboard apps and explore each of them to determine which one fits best with how you type or which one does the best to strengthen your weaknesses.
While Gboard and SwiftKey may be too similar to use in tandem, either could certainly pair well with Grammarly Keyboard. Regardless, each of these are likely to be an improvement from your smartphone’s stock keyboard.