Late last year, Google replaced Google Keyboard with Gboard. Originally iOS-only, Gboard is one of the most well-rounded keyboards available on Android. It features things like Google, emoji and GIF search right from the keyboard itself -- just tap the G logo. Gboard also includes gesture typing, very accurate auto-correct and word prediction and a one-handed mode.
Third-party keyboards were once one of the standout features of Android. The ability to get rid of the software keyboard which came installed on your phone and replace it with something that better has previously been a luxury.
These days, third-party keyboards can be found on iOS as well, and there is no shortage of options. A recent trend in software keyboards is packing in tons of features, themes and even search functionality into the lowly keyboard.
If you find the Google Keyboard is nice but doesn't have quite enough customization, try Chrooma Keyboard. It's very similar to Google Keyboard both in usability and design. But it comes packed with a ton of customizations, such as a split mode for thumb typing, night mode and standard emoji, not those hideous Android ones.
Unlike Google Keyboard, the number row at the top of Chrooma Keyboard can be swiped left or right to access clipboard controls or frequently used emoji. And if you purchase the premium unlocks, you can customize everything just a little bit more. If you're fine with the included features, Chrooma is free to use.
One of the oldest options for third-party keyboards is Swype. It's been around since the days of Windows Mobile, but it has come a long way since then. There is a store full of premium themes, and it offers cloud sync along with backup of your words, personalization using Twitter and the ability to adjust the size of the on-screen keyboard.
What sets Swype apart from all the other gesture typing keyboards, however, is its in-built dictation software, which is powered by Nuance's Dragon Dictation instead of Google's.
Swype is $0.99 (£ 0.75 in the UK or AU$1.31 in Australia) in Google Play with a variety of free and premium themes available in the Swype Store.
SwiftKey, also a keyboard veteran, is another fan favorite and is one of Swype's biggest competitors. Like Google Keyboard and Swype, SwiftKey uses gesture typing for easier and faster input. It also has an aggressive and artificially intelligent autocorrect engine that learns the way you type and gets better at correcting your typos over time.
Something that sets SwiftKey apart is its floating keyboard. You can undock the keyboard, resize it and drag it anywhere on the screen to type, as well as enable a one-handed mode or turn it into a split thumb keyboard. These features are particularly useful on a larger device, such as a tablet.
SwiftKey is available at no cost, with both free and premium themes which can be downloaded through in-app purchases.
Minuum is certainly one of the most strange keyboards, and the only one that breaks from the traditional QWERTY layout. It's based on the QWERTY layout, but it condenses everything to a single row and banks on context along with a strong autocorrect engine to figure out what you're trying to type.
That said, you can pull up on the suggestions bar to expand into a full QWERTY keyboard. There are a number of themes to choose from and under the Experimental & Advanced menu in Minuum settings, you will find bonus panels for emoji, cursor control, clipboard controls, search and share as well as typing speed. It has a built-in dictionary and thesaurus, and it includes one of my personal favorite features: inline emoji search.
Minuum takes a lot of getting used to, but after the learning curve, it packs a ton of features into a very compact package. It's currently $3.99 (£2.20 or AU$3.99) in Google Play. There is also a trial version, which is good for 30 days.
Without gesture typing, Fleksy also relies on strong autocorrect software to correct your sloppy typing. And Fleksy's autocorrect is one of the best in the business.
Like Minuum's experimental panels, Fleksy has an extensions bar above the keyboard. Extensions are customizable and range from GIF search to a launcher and clipboard controls.
Not only is Fleksy free, the developers recently made all the included themes free, as well. The only in-app purchase you will find now is an unlock for additional extensions. You can add up to four for free, but additional slots will cost you $0.99 (£0.75 or AU$1.31) each.
Another keyboard based on extensions, or slashes, is Slash Keyboard. It has built-in search for Google, Giphy, emoji, Google Maps, Youtube, Amazon, Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, SoundCloud and many more services.
Hit the Slash button to the left of the space bar to immediately begin searching something like Product Hunt. Tapping on one of the search results will automatically paste it in the text field you're typing in.
Slash Keyboard is entirely free, and it's very unique. I've always called it the Swiss Army Knife of software keyboards. However, it lacks the strong autocorrect of other keyboards, as well as gesture typing, which can make it a pain to use at times.
If you take what Slash Keyboard has and reduce it to local contact search, thesaurus and Microsoft's services -- Bing, Office 365 and One Drive -- you have Microsoft's Hub Keyboard.
It's helpful for adding or sharing documents without leaving the app you're in, and it integrates quite well with Microsoft's services.
Hub Keyboard is also lacking powerful autocorrect and gesture input, so it may not be your daily driver. That said, if you find yourself using Office 365 or sharing documents from your phone often, you will likely find this keyboard very useful, and it may be faster or easier to switch to this keyboard than opening an entirely new app to share a document.
Ginger Keyboard has it all -- themes, emoji, gesture typing, solid autocorrect, shortcuts to helpful apps (like creating a new note or task in your prefered app) and even search.
Something else that Ginger Keyboard has that you won't find in many other keyboards is games. You can play classics like Snake or something a little newer, like 2048, without ever leaving the app you're in. It seems odd, sure. But why not?
Ginger Keyboard also has a spell checker, which is a little different than autocorrect. However, while Ginger Keyboard is free, it limits the corrections it makes to just eight. After that, you will need to purchase a monthly subscription for $0.99 (£0.75 or AU$1.31) or annually for $8.99 (£6.82 or AU$11.90).
TouchPal is another keyboard which seemingly has it all. It has built-in GIF support, emoticons and emoji, emoji art, a host of free and premium themes, customizable fonts, dialect dictionaries and even news headlines built into the app. You can gesture type, resize the keyboard or switch to a split keyboard, access your clipboard history and play games.
This keyboard is chock full of features, including an app locker to password protect certain apps.
It's also free to download with a $4.99 per year subscription, which unlocks all the premium content.
If all you're looking to do is share some GIFs, GIF Keyboard should be your go-to on Android. It has quick access to commonly themed GIFs, trending GIFs, a search tool and a shortcut which will take you back to your normal keyboard. Depending on which app you're in, tapping to select a GIF will either paste the GIF URL in the text input field or automatically send the embedded GIF.
Much like SwiftKey, ai.type keyboard focuses on personalization and learning the way you type from your online accounts, like Google and Facebook. It also has over 150,000 themes available to download, including animated themes. If you don't like the themes available, you can create your own with the built-in Make It Mine theme maker tool.
In ai.type, there is also a dedicated row of keys which changes between recent emoji, numbers, arrow keys, punctuation and accent characters.
Available now, ai.type is $3.99 (£3.12 or AU$5.29).
The main feature of Go Keyboard is the massive amount of themes available. You can select key height, the width of the space bar and toggle cursor control on or off. It also bills itself as the best emoji keyboard on Google Play, with its Android 7 update including support for emoticons and GIFs (and even a GIF maker).
Outside that, there isn't much that sets Go Keyboard apart from the dozens of similar options in the App Store. Go Keyboard is free, but to remove ads, you will need to cough up $2.99 (£2.34 or AU$3.96).