SwiftKey, a popular Android keyboard, today announced that it will be adding swipe-based text-input in the near future. Dubbed "SwiftKey Flow," the new feature is a direct response to the other popular Android keyboard in the market today, Nuance's Swype. We sat down with SwiftKey to get a demo of a beta version of the software, and even at this early stage it looks pretty impressive.
The main difference between SwiftKey Flow and Swype is that you don't need to finish the word you're swiping to type it, just lift your finger off the keyboard once it appears as a suggestion. SwiftKey believes its natural language prediction engine gives the company a distinct advantage, arguing those suggestions tend to appear faster and more accurately than on Swype. There are still a few small UI tweaks it needs to make before launch, as the mix of swiping and word prediction could add a bit of confusion about the keyboard's behavior. Traditional tapping seems to be just as responsive as before, with the addition of gesture-based typing not slowing down the keyboard's ability to recognize quick taps on letters.
SwiftKey tells us that it hasn't yet decided if it will be a free upgrade for current users. The good news, however, is that the company is committed to keeping the app in the Google Play Store despite some high-profile companies that have taken up its software on-deck. Samsung's Galaxy Note II and BlackBerry 10 both reportedly utilize SwiftKey's predictive engine, but to date it looks like those partners aren't trying to demand exclusivity. Unfortunately, the company is only launching a sign-up for the beta today, with the actual beta getting released in the coming weeks and an actual, retail release in 2013.