This is a review of three of the most popular keyboard typing apps on Android devices: SlideIT Keyboard, SwiftKey Tablet X, and Thumb Keyboard 4.
The TypingDroid app has a “Short Sentence” feature. It flashes a series of short proverbs, and analyses both the speed and accuracy of the typing. A typical test lasts less than 2 minutes.
How the test was carried out
Prior to the test, my primary keyboard is the Thumb Keyboard 4. I have been using it for about 2 weeks. I have also tried the trial versions of SlideIT Keyboard and SwiftKey Tablet X on previous occasions.
For this test, the full versions of the Thumb Keyboard 4 and SlideIT Keyboard were used, and a fully-functional trial version of the SwiftKey Tablet X.
5 tests on TypingDroid were carried out for each of the three keyboards. The two slowest times were then discarded to account for unfamiliarity and practice effects. The remaining results were then displayed as a scatterplot chart.
Speed and accuracy results
The dots from the same keyboard tend to cluster, indicating high consistency of the results. We can surmise the following:
- SwiftKey Tablet X is the slowest (average of 111 characters per minute), but also the most accurate (100%)
- Both SlideIT (166 char/min) and Thumb Keyboard 4 (172 char/min) are fast
- But the SlideIT edges out the Thumb Keyboard 4 in accuracy (99% vs 97% respectively)
Here are some comments on each of the keyboards:
SwiftKey Tablet X
The SwiftKey Tablet X is a tapping keyboard. It has smart predictive capabilities. By analysing the contents of your emails and Facebook postings, it is often able to predict astonishingly well what your next word would be.
There is a thoughtful feature in the Tablet version, which splits the keyboard. This makes typing with the thumbs in the landscape mode much easier.
Unfortunately, there is an annoying lag in the keyboard. Pressed keys often go unregistered despite the reassuring click-click sounds. As a result, the wrong words are predicted. I spent an undue amount of time deleting and correcting my typing, and that accounts for the slow speeds.
Rating: B-. A fundamental flaw mars an otherwise great product.
Thumb Keyboard 4
The Thumb Keyboard 4 has a more conventional predictive ability, guessing your word based on the first few characters entered. The list of probable words are displayed at the top of the keyboard, you may either select the correct word or tap the spacebar if the desired word is highlighted. Although the keyboard auto-corrects for mistyping adjacent keys, a certain level of precision is still required to get the right word.
The main advantage over the SwiftKey Tablet X is that every single keypress is registered. This gives me the confidence to go fast. Combined with the predictive capability, this is the fastest keyboard in the test.
Only one thing slows me down: I often tap the period instead of the spacebar (these keys are located next to each other). The time spent correcting this one mistake is probably what prevented me from breaching the 200 character/minute barrier.
As it already has a neat feature of inserting a period by double-tapping the spacebar, I would suggest to reduce the size of the period key to prevent accidental presses.
Rating: B+. Great typing speed for the careful typist.
Have you heard of Swype? SlideIT is the Android version. Instead of pecking away at the tiny keyboard, you simply swipe your finger across the required letters without lifting up your finger. Once you get used to it, it’s simply the most fun way to type on an Android device.
It corporates a predictive capability similar to the Thumb Keyboard 4. After you swipe, a list of possible words appear at the top of the keyboard. If the correct word is highlighted, you simply swipe to begin a new word, and a space will be inserted automatically after the word. If not, simply tap on the word you want. Very simple.
Swiping on a 7-inch tablet works well in the portrait mode, but it’s quite a pain to swipe in the landscape mode, especially when you have to criss-cross the entire length of the keyboard multiple times. SlideIT allows you to resize the height of the board, but unfortunately, not the width. Otherwise, this is a wonderful keyboard.
Rating: A-. Fast and fun. I find myself typing away just for the heck of it.
The stock Android keyboard works well, but each app featured here outperform it by miles. The SlideIT keyboard is the most expensive (~SGD8), get it if budget is no issue (Seriously, you’ve already spent hundreds of dollars on an Android device…). Thumbs up to the Thumb Keyboard 4, which provides excellent features at a fantastic price (~SGD3).