SwiftKey Flow for Android released as public beta, we go hands-on

SwiftKey, after a long gestation period and a seemingly longer period of teasing the heck out of us, has released its Flow keyboard to the world. Unlike previous betas, which were available only for VIP forum members, this one is free to download from SwiftKey’s main website.

Combining the near-clairvoyant next-word prediction algorithms of its traditional peck keyboard with a Swype-like gliding system, Flow seemingly provides the best of both worlds.

In order to facilitate the quickest type of input, SwiftKey has developed “Flow-through-space”, or the ability to continue gliding without lifting your finger as you go through words. When you finish a word, you glide over the space bar and continue to the next word. It works pretty well and, while it missed a couple words on my initial tests, provided a smooth experience.

The issue at the moment, which Swype solves elegantly, is entering punctuation. While SwiftKey still provides its Smart Space button, which combines directional gestures and a single button, Flow forces you to lift your finger to enter punctuation, disrupting the input experience. And, unlike Swype or Android 4.2’s stock keyboard, SwiftKey Flow doesn’t give you alternatives to the word you’re typing as you’re gliding through it; you have to correct it after the fact if it assumes the wrong word. This isn’t a dealbreaker, but it will likely force users to have to read over what they’ve written to ensure no mistakes were made. The same can be said of Swype but I feel that system is a bit more polished.

Overall, SwiftKey Flow is a great beta product, and works quickly and accurately. I did notice that when “flowing through space” there were a few times the entire sentence would just be erased if the keyboard couldn’t correctly predict the next word, but I’d expect all these bugs to be sorted in due time.

You can download SwiftKey Flow beta for Android and let us know how you like it.

Source: SwiftKey Flow