Dec, 06 2012

After weeks of teasing, I think it’d be safe to say that Android junkies everywhere are clamoring for the next release of SwiftKey, an app renown around the world for its almost scary, mind-reading prediction engine. For their latest release — now available for SwiftKey’s VIP members (don’t worry, it’s free to sign up) — the team is introducing a completely new feature dubbed SwiftKey Flow.

The “flow” part in SKF describes the new way of using swiping gestures (ala Swype) and when combined with SwiftKey’s already tried and true prediction engine, should make for a winning combination. As a long time Swype user, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve swiped the wrong word in Swype and thought how cool it’d be if they just had Swype’s prediction engine for better accuracy. Now, what really blew people’s minds is when SwiftKey leaked a little video showing off their all new “Flow Through Space” feature. Instead of swiping and lifting your finger between words, users can now simply swipe down to the spacebar and continue with the next word. Let’s see Swype do that.

Alright, so there’s no question that SwiftKey Flow is the company’s answer to Swype — this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a newcomer try and dethrone the swiping king. But does SwiftKey Flow really have what it takes when it comes to real world usage? Well, we were lucky enough to snag an advanced of copy of the SwiftKey Beta and I have been using it as my primary input method for the past few days now. Here’s a quick hands-on video sharing my own experience with the keyboard replacement, specifically, SwiftKey’s all new swiping feature, including “Flow Through Space.” Keep in mind this is SwiftKey Flow Beta and while fully functional, is not the final release.

Flow

Okay, so as you can see from the video, the swiping gestures of Flow worked without a hitch, for the most part. There was, however, a little difficulty in getting Flow to recognize some words. Just everyday words like “it’s” and various words of the genital region were near impossible to accurately swipe out (guess that leaves sexting out of the picture). If you absolutely loath the idea of swiping with SwiftKey and feel like it taints the experience, no problem. The Flow feature can be turned off in the SwiftKey’s settings. Just pretend it never happened and be on your merry way.

Flow Through Space

While Flow was pretty solid in this early beta form, it’s “Flow Through Space” that was an almost completely broken experience. Stringing together very short sentences could work — but it was nowhere near consistent. In fact, the longer the sentence, the greater the chance SwiftKey would become confused and either incorrectly guess words, capitalize others, or give up altogether aborting the sentence completely. For instance, attempting to FTS with the sentence “It’s the best food in the world,” resulted in “Is The Best good in the world,” and “It hates me,” was interpreted as “Its batsman.” It was definitely fun to experimenting with, but I think overall it was simply too much for SwiftKey to handle. In fact, I suspect that it might even be Swift’s super advanced prediction engine causing confusion in Flow Through Space.

So while Flow Through Space is broken in its current state, this wouldn’t have been as big of an issue if SwiftKey simply allowed the user to revisit a flowed message, editing incorrect words by tapping and pulling up a list of possible predictions (like Swype). Instead, the cursor must be placed at the very end of each word, causing you to get frisky with your phone like you were in middle school. It’s this that makes swift corrections an impossible and grueling chore.

Verdict

SwiftKey Flow Phone Beta | SwiftKey Flow Tablet Beta

SwiftKey 3 on Google Play

Overall I’d say SwiftKey Flow is a worthy update to SwiftKey 3. Flow Through Space certainly isn’t the “Swype killer” many thought it’d be and turns out it needs to bake in SwiftKey’s ovens just a little longer. One area where SwiftKey still has a leg up over Swype is that SwiftKey is easily accessible and can be purchased securely from the Google Play Store. The best part? They aren’t even going to charge current customers who have already purchased previous versions of SwiftKey. A generous gesture, for sure. It’s for that reason I have no problem recommending Android users fork down their money to purchase SwiftKey, especially after seeing how far it’s come, and where it’s going.