SwiftKey has always been popular with Android users, but it’s about to attract a lot more: the company announced that its alternative keyboard app will now be available for free on the Google Play store. The app is also adding new customizable keyboard themes and support for 800 emoji characters.
If you’ve been paying the premium price for SwiftKey all this time, the app’s creators will reward you with a free “Premier Pack” of 10 keyboard themes, which normally costs $5. It’s not too big of a perk, but it’s better than nothing.
SwiftKey wants to reassure its faithful users that the decision to make the app free, doesn’t mean it will become a freemium app with limited functionality. The only feature you won’t have access to are all the different keyboard themes. If you want a certain pack of themes, you’ll have to pay for it. However, many of the 30 new themes are free. The default theme is called Nickel. All of the themes are simple, but some are more elegant than others. It’s nice to be able to decide what color background you want and whether you want inconspicuous keys, nearly invisible ones, or solidly defined ones.
The good news is that whether you buy themes or not, you’ll still have access to all the core SwiftKey features. The keyboard app’s accurate word prediction, SwiftKey Flow slide-to-type function, and autocorrect will work just fine. In fact, all these features have been improved, SwiftKey says. In our tests of the new app, all the things we know and love about SwiftKey were still there and fully functional, free or not. The keyboard accurately predicted our word choices and even kept up with manic typing speeds, despite the sloppy input from our fingers.
In addition to all the new themes, SwiftKey also added an optional number row to the top of the keyboard and prediction for 800 emoji characters. Based on the words you type, SwiftKey will suggest a specific emoji, or series of emoji, to accompany that thought. For example, if you always add a heart emoji after you text an “I love you,” SwiftKey will suggest that you do so every time it thinks you’ll want to use it.
The app now supports Belarusian, Mongolian, Tatar, Uzbek, and Welsh, bringing its total number of languages up to 66. The new version of SwiftKey is also better for multilingual speakers. You can tell the app to recognize a few different languages, so that autocorrect doesn’t mistake your Spanish for English and tell your significant other “the ammo,” instead of “te amo” (true story).
In our tests, the new and improved multilingual support worked almost perfectly while switching from English to German to Spanish. Any attempts to do the same using the built-in keyboard apps on the iPhone 5 and LG G3 ended in complete and utter disaster. It’s just not possible to type using words from three very different languages on your average mobile keyboard, that is, without having to switch language input settings every time you want to switch over.
Overall, this latest SwiftKey update adds a lot of great new features and improved functionality, all for the premium price of $0.00. SwiftKey is also working on an app for iOS 8 devices. So far, there is no word on whether it will include all the same great features for free or not.