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SwiftKey is free for Android, as predictive keyboard competition grows

Apple's upcoming QuickType keyboard for iOS 8 to add new prediction capabilities

June 11, 2014 11:54 AM ET

Computerworld - Innovations for predictive virtual keyboards used in smartphones and tablets keep rolling in.

On Wednesday, the SwiftKey Keyboard app for Android smartphones and tablets that allows predictive typing was put up for free in Google Play. The app previously sold for $3.99.

In a blog, London and San Francisco-based SwiftKey also said it added 30 new keyboard designs and improved its prediction engine for what a user wants to type. The company also said keyboard supports 66 languages and claimed that users would be able to type up to three languages at once with improved accuracy.

The announcement came just nine days after Apple announced it will open its upcoming iOS 8 for iPads and iPhones to third-party keyboard apps, which will undoubtedly include keyboards from SwiftKey, Swype and a host of others. Shortly after the Apple announcement on June 2, SwiftKey said it had already begun developing a SwiftKey Keyboard app for iOS 8.

SwiftKey Keyboards
SwiftKey said its predictive keyboards would be free on Android devices. (Image: SwiftKey)

SwiftKey previously introduced SwiftKey Note in January for iOS, allowing users to take advantage of SwiftKey's artificial intelligent innovations with note-taking on iPhones and iPads. Since its introduction in 2010, the SwiftKey Keyboard has spent more days on the highest paid app list in Google Play than any other app, SwiftKey said in announcing the free version. SwiftKey Keyboard now runs on 200,000 devices worldwide, the company said.

While recent news in keyboard upgrades might sound minor in the overall complexity of a new device, messaging is still the most heavily used app on a smartphone and the competition among vendors making predictive keyboard apps is aggressive. Analysts say texting is especially popular with users under the age of 30, but also in many emerging countries, while virtual keyboards have become a mainstay for writing short emails from a smartphone or tablet.

Apple certainly took note of the importance of messaging in its iOS 8 Preview online, noting its Messages app is "the app you use most." Apple plans to make it possible for iOS 8 users to capture any sound and add it to a text conversation. Users also will be able to share a quick video or a location easily, among other improvements.

Apple also said it will bring the "biggest changes to the keyboard since the very first iPhone" with new predictive typing in its QuickType keyboard. Using its own prediction engine, the keyboard will take into account the recipient of the text and in which app a user is typing. In one example described on its Web site, Apple showed how word choices in an email would be more formal when sent to a colleague, while less formal in a text to a friend or relative.

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