Swype vs TouchPal vs SlideIT vs SwiftKey

[Mar-2013] Swiftkey Flow

[Jan-2013] Updated to include Touchpal and Swype’s Skins

[Dec-2011] Updated to include SwiftKey

Swiftkey Flow has recently come out officially, and it’s pretty much a game-changer.  I’ll try to keep the layout of my original post but will update where appropriate for references to Flow.

There’s a lot of keyboard apps now for Android, and it’s getting more difficult for users to decide which one to pick.  Now that I have given the top 4 a thorough test, I decided to share my findings.

To start I’ll talk about what they all can do:

  • tap-prediction – Just as with the stock android keyboard, tap letters and it will predict the word you are trying to type.
  • swiping – sliding text input, simply drag your finger across the letters of each word, and the app will output the one it thinks you meant, and offer suggestions for other words if it got it wrong.

Swype

Swype is famous for having great swipe input predictions.  It’s also the only keyboard to allow circling letters for double-lettered words such as ‘too’.  Apparently SlideIT has this functionality, but to me it’s implemented quite poorly, and would rarely correctly output words that end with double letters such as too, boo, woo, moo, etc…

In Swype when you want to erase text, you hold the backspace for a couple of seconds and it removes text word-by-word.  TouchPal and SlideIT removes character-by-character which is very frustrating.  TouchPal and SlideIT will remove the last word that was input, but if you want to remove words before that you will have to use their delete-swipe functionality, by holding delete then swiping to the left per word.

Swype: Pretty.

Skins:
Swype_themes

TouchPal

TouchPal has the most functionality out of the three. It has hardware keyboard prediction support as well as swiping, and tap predictions. Like SwiftKey, it has language prediction, meaning it predicts the next word you are likely to type in a sentence.
The text correction is not very good. I tried to type (not swipe) ‘disappointed’ about 4 times in portrait layout before it was correct.

touchpal skins

Update: TouchPal is no longer the ugliest keyboard.

TouchPal’s vibration feedback is very low by default, I found this hard to use, particularly when swiping as feedback is barely noticeable, and it’s hard to know if the word was even recognised just by feel alone.  I found a setting to adjust vibration, and after amped up, swiping was much more noticeable.

As with all keyboards, TouchPal offers long pressing keys to get the alternate characters [such as ‘v’ to get question mark].  However it’s the only keyboard to have drag-down to get the alt-characters. While this is a minor feature, it’s faster and I miss it using other keyboards.

SlideIT

SlideIT, like all the keyboard now, has some gorgeous skins, though strangely not by default.  Initially it uses a plastic ‘Third Dimension skin’ which is quite ugly.

slideit

SlideIT’s default ‘Third Dimension skin’ centre, surrounded by holo and others

SlideIT is the only app to have tap-to-slide transition support, meaning you can tap the beginning of a word, then transition into swiping the rest.  I don’t find a lot of use for this, but it’s worth noting.

SwiftKey
SwitKey is better than anything at tapping prediction.  It has hardware keyboard prediction support and virtual tap predictions.  It has very impressive language prediction, meaning it predicts the next word you are likely to type in a sentence with pretty decent accuracy.
swiftkey3The tapping text correction is better than any other app I’ve tested.  I tried to type as sloppily and as fast as I could and it pretty much got every word right except for times where I clumsily typed keys nowhere near the correct areas of the keyboard.  I kind of wish this software was available for PC, as it almost makes typing on the phone faster and easier than a laptop.

I found SwiftKey works best when I ensured ‘precise’ was selected over ‘rapid’ as accuracy is important to me,  and with haptic feedback at 30ms.

The biggest and most obvious flaw with SwiftKey was it’s complete lacking of any swiping functionality, however the new Swiftkey Flow feature corrects this.  I have been using Swiftkey Flow since beta, and I am very impressed. It works shockingly well.  Initially it didn’t seem quite as accurate as Swype but since stable release I’m finding it pretty much perfect.

SwiftKey also now seems to have word-by-word backspace functionality.

Comparison

android-keyboard-table

Conclusion

Swype has incredibly accurate swipe input, before Swiftkey Flow this made Swype my clear winner and guaranteed recommendation.  Now things are a little more competitive.

TouchPal has up to now beat SwiftKey in functionality as it offered everything, from hardware keyboard support, to virtual tapping and swiping.  However with Swiftkey Flow, Swiftkey might be out on top with it’s amazing tapping and language prediction.  It does almost everything TouchPal does, but better.

I still love Swype, it has great swiping predictability, and the ability to circle double letters makes accuracy extremely high.  It’s tap predictions are just about as good as TouchPal and SlideIT, but not quite as refined.

Now all the keyboards are finally all beautiful with skin support (no idea why SlideIT insists on keeping the 3D skin as default though, it’s hideous), it’s all down to functionality now, and with Swiftkey Flow, Swype may finally lose it’s top spot for me.   Flow has proven it’s a real feature and not just an advertising checkbox to compete against Swype.

I have been using SwiftKey as default on my phone for months now.   Which is strange to admit as I used Swype pretty much religiously for years.  I still haven’t turned my back on Swype fully though, it’s still my keyboard for my tablet, and time will tell if I put it back on the phone, or make Swiftkey my keyboard for both devices.  I do miss circling keys for double letters, but it’s looking that Swiftkey is the new king.

Ironically, the reason I most wanted Swiftkey to have swipe functionality, was so I could use hardware keyboard tap-prediction and virtual keyboard swiping with one app, but as Swiftkey finally gained this ability, I gave up the hardware keyboard and moved to a phone that only has touch screen.

We’ve come a long way in the last couple years with Android keyboards, I can finally say that any of the apps would make a nice experience.  Plus there are many other keyboard apps now, and with so much overlapping functionality, we’re truly spoilt for choice.

22 Responses to “Swype vs TouchPal vs SlideIT vs SwiftKey”


  1. 1 James 16 September, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Corrections:

    “It’s also the only keyboard to allow circling letters for double-lettered words such as ‘too’.”

    Actually, SlideIT does this too. Both keyboards advise “doing a little squiggle” on the letter you want to double.

    “TouchPal and SlideIT only removes the last word.”

    Not true – both TouchPal and SlideIT will delete *all* the text, character-by-character, not just the last word.

    Now for my own thoughts. I feel that Swype has the best symbol support. Accessing symbols is a breeze with Swype, whereas with SlideIT it can be a bit tedious (especially hunting for the £ symbol) and with TouchPal it’s just awkward. TouchPal was not designed well for symbols at all.

    But my favourite feature of SlideIT, which Swype does not seem to have, is the user-defined string shortcuts. These shortcuts allow me, for example, to slide for the word “email” and select my shortcut called “EMAIL” which will be highlighted in green, causing my full email address to be inserted into the text. It’s great for logging into websites and such.

    For this reason SlideIT must remain my favourite – but I hope they improve the symbol support (along the lines of Swype) and I hope they also implement next-word prediction like TouchPal has.

    • 2 nascent 16 September, 2011 at 11:56 am

      Hey, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Word Circling:
      I did a lot of testing before doing the review, and I spent a while typing words ending with double letters, such as: too, boo, goo, moo, and with SlideIT, most of the time, these words were not recognised. So if SlideIT does support circling, it does a very poor job. Swype nails these though.

      Word deletion:
      I think you might have misunderstood me here, all three programs are capable of deleting all the text, the difference is the speed in which it does it. Swype removes word by word, under all circumstances, once the back button is held down. TouchPal highlights the last input word, and once focus is changed, or a new word is input, that word no longer is highlighted and so can no longer be deleted at once. SlideIT;s functionality is exact the same as TouchPal in that you can only delete the last entered word ‘at once’ and for all other words are character-by-character. Though SlideIT doesn’t highlight the word so it’s less obvious why it does this.
      So if you decide to change the last few words with Swype it takes a second, TouchPal and Swype allow the last word in a second, but for the rest of the words it’s character-by-character, taking much longer.

      I agree Swype is faster at symbol support, to get a £ character with swype it’s a long-press on the first (and only) symbol page. With SlideIT:you must navigate through 3 symbol pages, and TouchPal 2 symbol pages. But I’m confused why you think TouchPal is more awkward than SlideIT, though I do think the page devoted to smilie emoticons is a bit pointless.

      I’m glad you pointed out user-defined shortcuts, this was something I didn’t spend much time on as the already there LOL and BTW only output LOL and BTW. (Side note: it annoys me these are capitalized by default, even if acronyms are meant to be. It’s over expressive when it comes to informal slang.)

      Thanks again for your comment.

  2. 3 James 16 September, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Ah, I see what you mean by word deletion now.

    Swype will actually give you all the symbols (and more, such as accented letters) on the main keyboard if you perform a doubly-long press – the £ is hidden on the L key. It does involve a double-long press and a tap, though, so it’s not exactly quicker than accessing the symbol page – and you have to remember where the symbols are kept anyway! With SlideIT I have a sneaky work-around: I set up a shortcut on the word “QUID”, which gives me the £ symbol :)

    What I meant by TouchPal being awkward is that it seems to have taken a step backward with symbol convenience. For a start, the top two rows of letters don’t show what their long-press symbols are, even though the bottom row does. I can’t fathom why they thought this was a good move. The comma key doesn’t have any long-press function at all – seems like a wasted opportunity to me. The period key, by contrast, does have a long-press function, for a total of ten symbols, including the comma (why? it’s already on the keyboard), and 7 symbols which are already clearly indicated on the bottom row of keys. Taken together, that strikes me as a truly bizarre design.

    SlideIT has both abbreviations and shortcuts. The shortcuts are highlighted green or purple in the word choice menu… unfortunately I can’t give any examples – I deleted all the pre-sets since I never use them :P

    • 4 nascent 16 September, 2011 at 2:10 pm

      I agree with you on all these points.

      I’m still using SlideIT, as I wanted to give it a week before I changed back to Swype, so I’ll definitely give these shortcuts a thorough play with.

      I actually forgot Swype had the extra-long press for more symbols, so thanks for raising that point, though as you say, unless you memorise where each symbol is, you have to keep long pressing everything hoping you’ll find it, which is frustrating.
      I was also confused by the hidden symbols keys on the TouchPal keyboard, I guess they were trying to keep the keyboard ‘cleaner’ but it’s a mistake and they should be shown.

      I just wish that either SlideIT added hardware keyboard support, or TouchPal adds skin support, because these are their biggest selling points to me, but alone I’m not swayed enough to leave Swype’s sliding accuracy.

      Cheers again for the comments.

  3. 5 Ron 19 September, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    To get a £ character with SlideIT, all you need to do is to make a long press on G and select it from the banner :)

    I hear everyone talking about Swype, I’ve used Swype beta and I gotta say, SlideIT just works better. Its dictionary is better, it’s word prediction is better and it’s way of choosing alternate words is better.

    • 6 nascent 19 September, 2011 at 1:38 pm

      The problem is that you have to memorise where all the long-press alternate characters are. If you don’t know where they’re hidden you need to use the browse symbol page.

      Also, I really don’t find the slide predictions very good with SlideIT or TouchPal, they’re better at tap predictions but with sliding Swype is just more accurate to me.

  4. 7 elmoensio 23 November, 2011 at 12:38 am

    I did quite intensive testing myself also and my top three keyboards are Swype, TouchPal and Go Keyboard. I put heavy weight on usability, i.e. speed & accuracy of word prediction. Plus that I write in many languages so tapping is also important as well as keyboard layout and special characters.

    Am still waiting for the perfect keyboard to come up :)

  5. 8 Bayu Amus 16 December, 2011 at 2:30 am

    I agree with your comments on Swype good usability, however having moved from Samsung to HTC, I think at the moment Swype fell quite behind in terms of availability; it’s either your device has it or it doesn’t. :)

    Having lost all of my custom dictionary entry upon its latest version update, I found Swype’s Beta is still quite painful as well, not to mention the 11 Mb app size plus 8 Mb of its installer which is really taxing on devices with smaller internal storage. But hey it’s a Beta so bugs and technicality issues are well expected.

    Hence at the moment — while it’s not the best in term of usability and features — I found TouchPal is very affordable for what it’s capable to do; zero price, okay usability, and a very small footprint at only 4 Mb app size, in which 3.3 Mb of it can be moved to the external storage.

    • 9 nascent 16 December, 2011 at 2:41 am

      You make a good point. I may in the future include app sizes in my review.

      According to my application settings screen:

      Swype: 27.33mb + installer 21.08MB
      SwiftKey X : 7.54MB
      SlideIT: 6:09MB
      TouchPal: 9:25MB

      So while TouchPal is the 2nd largest app, Swype is more than five times bigger.

  6. 10 Max 10 January, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Hi all.
    I have recently decided to switch from Swype beta to TouchPal for a very simple reason: TouchPal is about 20 MB lighter!! With Swype I had about 20 MB free, while removing it and installing TouchPal I have 39 MB free: a big difference for my LG O1!

    Anyway, about my first usage impressions, Swype is more precise and comfortable to use, but maybe this is an impression due to the fact that I have used Swyper for months and TouchPal just a few times.

    I would like to point out that TouchPal has Word Deletion: if you swipe from the “backspace” button to the left, it erases the whole word. (Well, unless your finger is a bit above the backspace, since in this case you switch the keyboard layout…)

    Bye

    • 11 nascent 10 January, 2012 at 7:39 pm

      Nah I’ve run TouchPal for months, Swype is definitely more precise. Also As I said in the review, TouchPal does not have word deletion. You can delete the most recently entered word as it is highlighted, but you cannot delete words that aren’t highlighted.

      Also my phone has 1GB storage, with another 32G sd card, so 20mb of app size requirements makes zero difference to me. It would be nice if it were smaller, but for the sheer precision and feature set it’s more than worth it.

      • 12 Harry 17 January, 2012 at 2:28 pm

        Just as Max said, TouchPal actually has word deletion beyond the last input word. If you swipe left on the backspace/delete key, it actually deletes the next word by your left. That includes the space after the word from your right. Just make sure to swipe/slide beyond the delete key itself and maybe into the next key – “m” in the English QWERTY in my case.

        • 13 nascent 17 January, 2012 at 3:08 pm

          Hmm, I keep trying to do this but it doesn’t delete, I swipe left from the delete key and it just switches between numbers and letters..

          Thanks for the comment (and follow), I guess I’m either doing it wrong, or my version’s bugged or something.

  7. 14 pepoluan 21 January, 2012 at 3:32 pm

    I’m a heavy user of Swype (comes with Samsung Galaxy Ace and W), and also have been using SwiftKey X for the past 2 months (purchased via Market). I have to agree that SwiftKey X is very helpful for tap-entry. Thanks to its analysis of how I type (Gmail and Facebook) it’s hands down the more frequently used of the two.

    However, I keep coming back to Swype every now and then, because I totally *love* Swype’s ‘virtual cursor’ system (swipe from the Swype button on lower left to the SYM key). This allows me to quickly select text with high accuracy (e.g., to quote or delete or copy).

    I had planned on testing the other virtual keyboards, but thanks to your blogpost, I think I’ll just be happy with the two I already have.

    Thanks!

  8. 15 Eric 2 April, 2012 at 5:22 am

    Nice post! Although I’d like to add that SwiftKey does have word by word deletion if you have gestures turned on. Just drag your finger across the keyboard from right to left to delete a word.

    But thanks for the post about language prediction among these. I love SwiftKey but wish I had it’s predictions while using Swype or touchpal sweeping…

  9. 16 nascent 2 April, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Ah, now I understand the other comments that claim it has word deletion when I haven’t been able to achieve it. It’s Gesture only. I’m not a fan of adding gestures that have to be memorised. I still prefer Swypes method of using the backspace key on the keyboard. If I hold it it does word deletion after x seconds, and fi I hold it less than that or tap it it’s character-by-character.

    It still saddens me that since this was posted, the keyboards have changed very little. It’d be great if they tried to compete more. I still use Swype primarily, but for long physical keyboard use I switch to another for the physical predictions. I still miss the SlideIT skins, but fortunately Swype is good looking too.

  10. 17 Mosaics 11 June, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Thanks for your review, been useful in helping me decide on a keyboard foot android.

  11. 18 Frank 2 January, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    Just for the records: In TouchPal you have word deletion by sliding left on the backspace key. I don’t remember if that was already in your tested version, but V5 has this…

  12. 20 Joro 23 February, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Far as I could discern, it is now impossible to install Swype without agreeing to a Network connection permission which is absurd for me, no matter how reputable the company is. This is a huge black dot for Swype in my book. In addition, i mostly type in my native language which Swype has come to support only recently. So while all the reviews still claim Swype is the best, I’m trying to cherry-pick one of the other alternatives and still can’t make up my mind.

    But i think any review should highlight the fact that Swype requires network permissions as this is frankly outrageous.

    • 21 nascent 24 February, 2013 at 11:56 am

      Thanks for reading and commenting.
      I’m going to be updating the article again soon now Swiftkey 4 is out of beta (I’ve re-enabled it as my default to see how it fits). I’ll take a look at your claims.
      Your comment’s here to warn people in the meanwhile, although I haven’t been aware of this yet so cannot confirm or deny it’s happening.

  13. 22 nascent 24 February, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    I do have those features enabled the sync is pretty useful because I have multiple devices.
    I guess I didn’t notice the permission, though for that feature would expect the requirement, but will look into it further and note it in the review.

    In regards to you finding a replacement, Swiftkey 4 seems like the best option. It has swiping (Flow), tap prediction and is aesthetically nice.
    the swiping seemed a little rough during the beta, but so far seems really decent in the final release.


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