Since the very start, I have been a fan of the popular Android replacement keyboard, SwiftKey. I swear by it. I've been using it for as long as I can remember, and ever since the improvements introduced in more recent updates – such as an algorithm that doesn't require the user to even use the space bar – it has become my go-to keyboard for any and all of my Android devices.

SwiftKey, by far, left the rest of Android replacement keyboards in the dust. And even though Google added learning capabilities and eventual predictions to the stock Android keyboard, SwiftKey's predictions proved to be fathoms better in almost every scenario.

SwiftKey 3 is very nearly perfect, particularly if you don't mind tapping your words out. But if you're prone to typing with one hand, the ever-increasing size of modern smartphones can make one-handed input difficult, if not impossible. And tapping words out with a stylus (or the Galaxy Note II's S Pen, in my case, which is almost always in my hand) can grow to be tiresome and nerve-wrecking.

This is where continuous input, also known as trace or gesture typing, becomes extremely advantageous and where SwiftKey 3 begins to fall short.

Swype, the most well-known and highly popular continuous input keyboard, has added personalization (or personal language learning) abilities to its soft keyboard. And Google, which had already added personalization and word predictions to its stock Android keyboard in the 4.1 update, added trace input in Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

After switching to the Galaxy Note II, I all but abandoned SwiftKey in favor if a combination of Swype and the stock TouchWiz Nature UX keyboard with continuous input enabled. With the S Pen, both of these work quite well. But they don't offer predictions quite like SwiftKey does, and long-pressing letters for alternate symbol input seems like it takes ages.

(An aside: In the SwiftKey settings, you can alter the long-press duration, of which I always set to 300ms. If I were to guess, other keyboards like Swype have a delay of 600ms or more before the alternate key function is enabled. A 300ms difference may seem petty, but it's twice as long, which means inputting numbers and symbols takes twice a long … each time. After getting used to the ability to rapidly input symbols and numbers without pressing the symbol key, it's tough switching back. It's tiny things like this that put SwiftKey over the top.)

SwiftKey, my favorite Android soft keyboard, was missing a key factor that I needed and several other keyboards offered.

Enter SwiftKey Flow.

First announced back in late October, SwiftKey Flow is the update many SwiftKey fans have been hoping would happen for ages now. The update brings continuous input, or gesture typing, to SwiftKey, meaning you can simply drag and swipe to type. Pair this with the amazing predictions that SwiftKey is notorious for and you have a perfect pair, right?

Well, sort of.

I was sent an early beta preview several hours ago, and I've been playing with SwiftKey Flow all night, texting friends, typing emails, tweeting, etc. It only took a few minutes for me to realize that, unfortunately, something is fatally wrong with SwiftKey Flow. (Keep in mind, this is still a beta, so it may just be a kink that isn't yet ironed out.)

I'm not sure if SwiftKey simply has a notably larger dictionary that Swype or the stock Android 4.2 keyboard, but it's very clear they're using different algorithms to translate the gestures to individual words. When it's working well, it's absolutely fantastic. But one little hiccup sent me down an hour-long tangent of trying to input the same commonly used word over and over.

Starting with my finger on the I key and sliding over T and S will yield a variation of "its" using Swype or the stock Android keyboard. Even continuous input on the Samsung keyboard understood I wanted either "its" or "it's". Using SwiftKey Flow, the same swipe (starting from I and sliding through T and ending at S), gave me "is" every single time. Basically, the only way I have been able to successfully type "it's" or "its" using SwiftKey Flow is by tapping it out.

Big deal. It's only three letters, right? Well, yes and no. Switching back and forth between tapping and gesture input is harder than it may sound, especially after spending so much time with other trace typing keyboards that have no trouble with simple words, such as "its". But between the predictions and tracing, the mental switch may come in due time.

What's worse, though, is that SwiftKey Flow seemingly forgot how to remember new words, something its topnotch predictive input heavily relies on. For example, I wanted to type "SwiftKey". I slowly slid my finger over all the letters. "Socket." The second time, I got "Sidney", then "Sidley" and "Socket" again. So I decided to type SwiftKey and made sure to tap the suggestion before I hit the space bar. (This would usually tell SwiftKey to remember an unfamiliar word.) Still, after countless tries, I have only managed to get "SwiftKey" twice out of at least 75 attempts – trying to trace both fast and slow.

That said, they have added a feature that easily one-ups the rest of the trace keyboards available. Dubbed "Flow Through Space", it gives true meaning to continuous input. Instead of picking your finger up between each word to let the software know you have finished a word, you can simply slide your finger over the space bar and continue sliding to make more words. After four or so words have been traced, SwiftKey Flow will drop the word from the suggestions to the input field and allows you to keep going, just as the no space trick in SwiftKey 3 does (see above).

The one bug I have ran into with this feature is that when your are tracing an arduous word – or miss a letter or two – and the keyboard gets confused, it clears out the entire gesture. If you have, say, four words traced and confuse the keyboard (which happens quite easily sometimes), the entire string gets canceled, versus inputting what has already been traced and saving time and effort. Very frustrating.

The upside to Flow Through Space, however, is quite neat. Remember how SwiftKey Flow had trouble recognizing "its"? If you continue to the space bar and type another word, SwiftKey's understanding of natural language usually corrects "is" to "its" or "it's", depending on the context. Color me impressed.

Despite a few hurdles, I fully plan to keep using SwiftKey Flow over anything else out there. The input feels more polished than Swype and as polished as the new stock Android's trace feature with notably better predictions than either of its counterparts.

For those already registered in the SwiftKey VIP forums, you can expect the beta to arrive soon. If not, however, you can register at swiftkey.net/flow.

What third-party Android keyboard do you prefer, readers? How do you like SwiftKey? And once you get a chance to check out SwiftKey Flow, drop a comment below and share any awesome tricks or nasty glitches you may find!

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70 Reactions to this post

"What's your favorite Android keyboard?"

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Anonymous SwiftKey 3 is amazing
Anonymous Magic Keyboard. The best I've found and it's getting better all the time.
John C. Cole I really like Super Keyboard. Resizing the keys is a great feature. I'm a tall guy with fairly large hands using a Galaxy S Blaze, and I am not a fan of autocorrect.
Jose Be Julme Swype, Flow is pretty good so far.
Sameer Biala Trying out now. So far so good :-)
Xaraa Aar Kay Better Keyboard
Javier Delgado I fcking hateeee motorola....but i have to admit...i like their motobluuurrrr keyboard on gb
Brian Lewis Stock Android....either Gingerbread or ICS.
Eric Quach Swiftkey all day. been supporting them for a while
Wesley A Meek Years ago I purchased both Swiftkey and SlideIT, SlideIT still rules, swiftkey still doesn't come close.
Wesley A Meek SlideIT has and always will be better, it has more options, better personalization features, I've gone back to swiftkey from time to time to see any improvements or innovations
Jannis Anderson Stock Android 4.2 keyboard!!!
Chris Belisle Ultra keyboard! Has Swype, qwerty layout, and t9. I use all of them
Juwon Donte Go keyboard and jellybean keyboard
Rabindranath Melgar Better rhe new samsung keyboard with support hand write for the s-pen
Mathieu Omoregie Swiftkey 3 most accurate keyboard period. Need more themes but as far as corrections and accuracy. The best in the play store
Angel Hernandez HTC sense 4.0 keyboard,a lot better then previous versions.
Brandon Holley Hacker's keyboard or touchpro V5.
Michael Katz I've tried them all. Swiftkey Flow is the best!
Steven Basso SwiftKey any day I love it does everything I need and I can type super fast on it
Joel Neil Using swift key now. I have been learning more about it. Hopefully I can switch over from swype if it goes well.
Christopher Manic Johnson This is me using the flow function son SwiftKey Flow. As you can see it is not the best with ever word prediction. But it is fantastic for being beta.
Phil Graham I prefer Swype.
Christopher Manic Johnson I've used all the stock keyboards, I was hanging out with Smart Keyboard Pro for a while, since I preferred it over stock, but I have to honestly say SwiftKey Flow is my new favorite. I can do swiping better than I could with Swype, and the predictions are honestly spot on. Plus the size and spacing of the keys are both fantastic. When this keyboard is available in the Play Store, I'm buying it asap.
Fabian Charlton Jb is bad how do you move the cursor
Jami Sims JB Keyboard
Angel Jewels I use SwiftKey. But agree that it would be nice if they would combine with swipe. That would be keyboard heaven.
Khurt Escoffery SwiftKey hands down
James Kendrick 4.2 stock is awesome.
Nathan Bryant The fact that it has issues with plurals is making it flop. It's beta so they'll fix it in time but you can't make sentences if it doesn't pick up plurals or words that have possessions. That's everyday use.
Jessi Taylor Swype fan here.
Bill Siembida Stock HTC . Never have a problem with it . Spaced great autocorrects great and is responsive
Zach Cline I don't use keyboard replacements
Alberto Garcia Flores I bought SwiftKey on my Galaxy S3 I think I could not get any better, BUT Motorola has the best keyboard ever since the Motorola Cliq MOTOROLA = BEST KEYBOARD I miss it now thanks PhoneDog.com
Guillermo De León Stock keyboard.
Anthony Mendez SwiftKey Flow cause it's the best of both worlds: classic SwiftKey and swype all in one :D
Jason Capo SwiftKey Flow!!
Osama AlTaher Try SlideIT then compare
Marcelle Garcia SwiftKey hands down it understands my spanglish and predicts words both english and spanish wouldn't trade it for any other keyboard
Felix Rob Paulino SssssssssssENSE's.
Maduka Suraweera Motorola keyboard
George Millhouse Stupid the SwiftKey lol
George Millhouse Skype is more accurate
Anthony Bailey SwiftKey X Tablet is my favorite traditional keyboard. I don't have access to Flow, so until then, Swype is my favorite alternative keyboard.
Thomas Boehnlein SwiftKey and Thumb Keyboard
Ric Rush The great thing about SwiftKey Flow is that it still knows your next word predictions. It would get top marks if they kept the swipe left to erase function though.
Fabian Charlton If someone could take the accuracy of the stock it would so much better.
Andy Nguy 4.2's keyboard is better imo. I only got swiftkeys cause you can swipe to the spacebar. still not used to it, gonna give it a couple more days
Fabian Charlton As far as accuracy is covered..... Stock is better
Rey Gonzalez Jelly Bean Keyboard
??? ???????? multiling keyboard, as the armenian layout is just amazing !
Fabian Charlton As far as accuracy is concerned stock is so much better
Sean McCollum I love the 4.2 keyboard personally. This is the first keyboard that I can type as fast as Obama spends money!
Vicente Reyes The stock keyboard and the swype keyboard that comes with my phone. I tried others but their sluggish
Nick Catelli Always been a huge fan of Motorla's multitouch keyboard
Stephen Wagner i have the 4.2 gesture typing. i like that. i have the non gesture typing one too and i love that. swype is good too. swftkey flow is awesome so far
Biraj Patel stock Ice Cream Sandwich Keyboard!
Rama Blaze i have 4.2 android/swype and this versin of swiftkey..... i think i prefer swype..but definately going give swiftkey a week to test it.
TJ Hardin SwiftKey!!!!
Danu Carrión Perales stock android 4.2 keyboard. Its amazing, you have the swype input, normal keyboard and speech to text!
Rob McGrady 4.2 keyboard on my amaze
James Frazier Swiftkey is awesome, I love it.

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