Nov 28, 2011
There’s no debate that physical keyboards are superior to their virtual counterparts but most people aren’t willing to trade clunky mechanical sliders, smaller screen sizes, and thicker phones for that convenience. So this post is a look at three of the top keyboard apps in the Marketplace: GO Keyboard, Smart Keyboard PRO, and SwiftKey X. The differences between these three keyboards are very marginal. All three offer very solid autocorrect features and all three allow skinning and heavy customization. We’re going to look at the differences at these apps by evaluating how they do in two different areas: Precision and Aesthetics & Performance.
In terms of tracking exactly where your finger hits all three of these apps are equal, but GO Keyboard seemed to give for greater accuracy by using its predictive text to guess at what letters were coming next and essentially giving them the benefit of the doubt on a misplaced keystroke. The autocorrect features, as I stated earlier, are very similar and all do a decent job. However, SwitftKey X has a predictive text feature that analyzes what you’ve typed previously and queues that word up in the bar above the keyboard. For example, typing “I’m feeling under the” would prompt the word “weather” and to select this all you need to do is hit the spacebar. This creates problems, though, causing you to inadvertently insert unwanted words by pressing the spacebar one too many times. SwiftKey X has the option to analyze your texts, Facebook status, tweets, contacts, and emails to find patterns in your speech. This works really well, since I have the habit of starting many of my texts with the word “Yea” and SwiftKey X didn’t try to correct it to “Yes” the first time it saw it like the other two keyboards.
Of the three, only GO Keyboard comes with swipe texting, but the trade off is that SwiftKey X and Smart Keyboard PRO both have gesturing. For example, swiping to the left on either of these will delete the previous word all together. However the option to edit these gestures is only available on Smart Keyboard PRO and not SwiftKey X. The swipe texting on GO Keyboard works really well and might be better than Swype that comes on my EVO 4G, which can be buggy. The only problem I have is that GO Keyboard doesn’t allow you to point back to another word and delete some letters if you’re currently editing a word. This does get frustrating but is nothing that can’t be overcomes with use.
Lastly, Smart Keyboard PRO allows you to switch between a full, compact, and T9 mode. The full and T9 modes are self explanatory and the compact mode is probably the best, and allows this one to stand out from the others. In this mode, the keys are in groups of two and its like a hybrid between T9 and a full keyboard. The best part is that you can do this in full predictive mode or a classic “tap twice for the second letter,” and you can quickly switch between these two modes with the touch of a button. This allows for quick, predictive texting and the freedom to easily add in words that don’t appear in the dictionary.
Smart Keyboard PRO — 9.0
GO Keyboard — 8.5
SwiftKey X — 8.5
Aesthetics and Performace
All these apps allow for downloadable skins and though neither have an incredibly deep library, they are diverse so that you won’t have a hard time finding the style you’re looking for. More customization is allowed almost universally, allowing the height and width of keys to be changed. The only aesthetic difference is that with Smart Keyboard PRO and SwiftKey X the keys can be made flat, whereas GO Keyboard appears raised. But we’re splitting hairs here. Only GO Keyboard has the option to change the font, but aesthetically you can’t go wrong with either app.
All these apps run as flawless as an app can run and they are all just as fast to appear as the stock keyboard. In terms of speed with autocorrecting all three apps are equally fast and don’t slow you down. This category is as close to a dead even as is possible.
Smart Keyboard PRO — 9.0
GO Keyboard — 8.5 (I prefer the flat keys)
SwiftKey X — 9.0
All three of these keyboards are the best and are better than the stock keyboard on your phone. This truly boils down to preference, but know that you will be content with any of these apps. If you love swipe texting then GO Keyboard is the best for you, and the fact that it’s free makes it the best value here. If you’re not an accurate texter, Smart Keyboard X and its compact keyboard is probably the best. SwiftKey X is a good all around keyboard that deserves a look for those who are accurate and are looking for speedy texting.