Editors' note: This review was updated November 7, 2013, to cover features added in the latest version of the app.
The newest version of SwiftKey bears an impressive feature set, with an increasingly smart prediction engine, a bevy of languages, SwiftKey Flow, and a convenient option to sync data with the cloud. While the virtual keyboard does cost $3.99 to download, the powers under its hood make it more than worth the money.
If you're not familiar with SwiftKey, it's an Android keyboard replacement that also happens to be a Google Play Editors' Choice app and winner of the coveted Most Innovative App award at the Global Mobile Awards in Barcelona, Spain. What sets this keyboard apart from others in its category is that it's capable of understanding not just patterns in your typing, but also how words work together. This makes it scarily good at predicting not only the next letter you need to type, but also the next word, sometimes even before you begin typing it. What's more, SwiftKey can continue to learn from your e-mail, SMS, and even social-media accounts (if each of these options is enabled), so it gets noticeably better at making predictions as you use it.
One keyboard for all devices
On November 6, SwiftKey updated its app to version 4.3 and introduced a new feature called "Layouts for Living" which puts three different keyboard layouts in the app so you can use SwiftKey on any size screen.
Previously, there were separate SwiftKey apps for Android tablets and phones, meaning if you owned both kinds of devices, you'd have to buy two apps. Now, there's only one app for all of your typing needs.
The original SwiftKey tablet app included different keyboard layouts to make it easier to type on larger screens, and now those new layouts are now available in version 4.3. You can undock the keyboard and move it around, choose from five different sizes for the full-width keyboard, and pick from two different layouts, thumb and compact.
The thumb layout splits the keyboard into two columns so you can use each thumb to type while holding the sides of your phone. Compact shrinks the size of each key and pulls it to one side of the screen so you can type one-handed (you can switch sides by pressing and holding the arrow that appears in this mode). In my testing, both the thumb and compact modes made it easier to type on both a tablet and a phablet, such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
With SwiftKey Cloud, the keyboard app can now sync your personal typing profile with the cloud. This makes it possible to have a perfectly consistent typing experience across all of your devices, all without having to train keyboards on your multiple devices. The feature works seamlessly in the background, and it requires you to enable it in the Settings menu before it transmits any data.
Another cloud-based feature, Trending Phrases, adds to the app's prediction engine a daily log of trending terms on Twitter. This makes it easier to, for instance, type out terms that everyone else is talking about, like names from the latest episode of "Game of Thrones" or terms from a current news story.