SwiftKey Flow

It's been interesting to watch the continued evolution of Android keyboards. Google's didn't start getting decent until the last year or so, but it lacked the excellent prediction of SwiftKey or the trace input of Swype. SwiftKey could read your mind, but Swype had -- well, Swype. The latter half of 2012 has seen parity come to your fingertips. Swype got itself some prediction. Google got itself some gesture typing. And SwiftKey found its Flow, which as of today is now available for download in beta form from SwiftKey's VIP forums. (More at swiftkey.net/flow as well.)

We've been using SwiftKey Flow for a couple days now, and our digits have been dancing ever since. Hit the break for our thoughts on the latest update to our 2011 Editor's Choice.

Here's the thing about SwiftKey Flow -- it brings trace input to the keyboard in a very unobtrusive manner. Don't like it? Simply don't use it. Or if it somehow does bother you, turn it off in the keyboard's settings.

SwiftKey's prediction remains as excellent as ever (and you can still personalize it by granting access to your Google, Twitter and Facebook accounts). The keyboard's layout is about as clean as any you'll see while still providing good secondary functions via long presses -- and the timing for the long press remains the best I've seen on an Android keyboard.

So how's the swiping work? Pretty well. Some of that will depend on your phone -- some displays present less friction than others. And some of that depends on your brain. Trace inputs are still a different way of typing, and it can take some practice if you're not used to it. But SwiftKey makes the entire process pretty painless. Just drag from one letter to the next. There's a cool neon trail that shows where you've been, and it fades away after a few letters. (Not unlike other gesture keyboards.) The setup process for SwiftKey Flow is the same as with previous versions of the app. You're walked through the steps necessary for enabling a third-party keyboard. It's a little painstaking, but it's worth doing right the first time.

But here's the really cool part about SwiftKey Flow -- you don't have to lift up after each word. Flow lets you trace down to the space bar  and keep one continuous movement through phrases. That takes a little getting used to as well, but it works pretty well, and it's a pretty neat trick from the same keyboard that lets you nearly skip the keyboard altogether when touch typing.

If all this looks a little familiar -- well, it should. Samsung actually implemented SwiftKey Flow in the Galaxy Note 2 using SwiftKey's SDK. It still uses Samsung's keyboard, but the prediction and tracing are SwiftKey Flow. (It was called "Continuous input" because SwiftKey Flow had not yet been announced. That's changed recently, and Samsung's listed "SwiftKey Flow" on the Verizon and Sprint Galaxy Note 2s.

For us, though, the bottom line is this -- SwiftKey was our Editor's Choice for keyboard of the year in 2011, and for good reason. It's grown up a bit in 2012, and the addition of gesture typing in SwiftKey Flow makes a great keyboard even better.

 

Reader comments

SwiftKey Flow now available – we go finger-on

97 Comments

How'd you get that blue theme in the picture for the keyboard? And I just tried the space thing and it is awesome.

Tried it for bout 10 minutes and fell in love lol. Extremely fast on my S3. Was waiting on this. Might be better than swype.

Im not seeing a difference, swype has always had continuous typing. You can drag your finger down to the space bar or period. I mean im doing it on my old mytouch 4g from t-mobile. Have been for a couple years now. Im not trying to be obtuse, i just dont see any difference.

agree completely... use swype since i adopted android a few years ago... use swiftkey on my tablets, so i was familiar with the prediction and such.... this flow keyboard is simply AWESOME. it is the best of both worlds... the two best keyboards for android (imo) merged into one.

Delicious.

Flow through space needs a lot of work. Even short sentences, SKF either wouldn't make the space or created some bizarre word combo.

I think the flow in general kinda has some tweaking to do. Try flowing "dead" almost always skips the "e". Small thing for a beta tho.

Works fine on my Razr HD. My question is will I have to pay for Flow after it goes live? I already have the paid version of Swift Key 3 and feel that Flow should just be an upgrade to it.

My guess is that, though Flow is getting its own beta version, it will just be included in the next version of SwiftKey (3.x or 4 perhaps?) so existing users wouldn't have to pay extra.

Same with SwiftKey 3 - it got its own beta but after it was complete, Swiftkey "X" users were able to download 3 for free.

Anyone having issues with the swipe to delete feature? It isn't working for me.

BTW - have been using Swype for so long I was going to spell swipe as swype. These brand names are making me dumber

Swipe to delete isn't in there. There's a thread on the VIP board about it full of people complaining.

I immediately switched back to SwiftKey 3 when I realized that once again, the idiots at SK have removed the most basic functions in their beta. They did the same stupid thing with the SK3 beta, forgetting that we used to set the longpress time and a few other things they ultimately put into the final version.

They must not use their own product or show it to real users at any time in the dev process because they always seem surprised - "Oh, you used that? OK, we'll put it back." LOVE SwiftKey, but at times like this, I want to punch the coders in the junk. Repeatedly.

...Just think carefully about why a "swipe to delete" feature wouldn't work so well on a keyboard whose newest and shiniest feature is "Swipe entry"...

In a way, I have this already on my Galaxy Note 2. I really want to get this, but will I still be able to get quick access to the handwriting pad keyboard when I take out my stylus?

"handwriting pad keyboard"???? when I pull my stylus out popup note appears, what are you getting? And that doesn't change when I added this or other keyboards to my Note II.

WOW. After 10 minutes I am amazed. It has some tweaking to do. But when I know what to type and where each letter is I fly through it. But dang, Swiftkey, add a pinned text/saved text feature. It's such a pain in the butt to type long e-mails.

It does not work in browsers. I tried Dolphin, Firefox Beta, Opera Mobile, Chrome and Stock Jelly Bean browser. Flow does not work, only tapping work. Flow works fine in other applications though. Disappointed... Am I the only one with the problem? Is this intentional? I'm on stock jelly bean 4.2.1 galaxy nexus.

No, you're not alone. I'm on the SG3 and it only works in text message and the Facebook app for me. Chrome, Gmail, Twitter (so far) don't work. I'm on stock 4.04.

I am on 4.1.2 Galaxy Nexus and same thing for me. Guessing it is intentional since most webpages don't really follow conventional spelling and grammar so the gesture input wouldn't really be effective.

I'm having the same issue, but don't think you're rational holds true as Swype has always worked in all applications. I'm guessing (and hoping) it was just an oversight

It does work on the N10 but only in portrait mode. This makes sense imo, have you tried using gesture typing in landscape mode? It takes so much longer that tap typing. Works fine in portrait though.

The website thing makes sense as mentioned above.

It works fine in Gmail on my phone (OneX) and on my N10.

There are bugs to work out, for instance I cannot make it swipe "it's". But considering Swiftkey is my default phone keyboard anyway I can see myself using this a lot.

I know Chrome's autocomplete used to fight with swiftkey, leading to weird glitches such as the doubledouble bug (where typing a letter would repeat all the previous letters in the word). As a result, swiftkey's word prediction was disabled in Chrome. I imagine that Flow requires the word prediction engine to work.

I have that problem as well. What I find strange when entering data in google.com search box, the prediction words are not there either. Is this normal for SwiftKey?

Just tried it for a Google search in Chrome on my S3. Flow worked fine but it did not show the trace as I swiped across the keyboard. Don't know if it matters but I'm running CleanROM Lite 4.0, Android 4.1.1.

It works fine for me in Chrome, Plume, Gmail and everthing else I've tried. Not sure if I'm special or not but I do not see any of these issues. I'm running the 10/31 release of Bugless Beast (4.1.1) and it works in every app.

I have the Note 2 and immediately installed Swype. Swype, to me, just seems to be the better all around option.

Q1: Why install swype when it comes with the Samsung Keyboard, along with the Swiftkey-style prediction?

Q2: Now that you have installed it, do you still have "instant" access to the Writing pad when you use your stylus?

I just got the demo on my galaxy note 2. Been trying it out for a while now. I have never used a "swype" style keyboard before. Definitely takes some getting used to. The only issue I have come across in the beta so far is that the only personalization that works is learning from sms. The rest are just stuck at "submitted". Anyone else experiencing this?

Hey thanks. I notice that they are popping in now. Facebook and Twitter failed the first time, so I tried a again and they seem to have worked.

It has been hit or miss from what I have seen in the past.

The Gmail sync failed for me this morning. Tried again, and it almost instantly succeeded.

Enjoy!

I think it's the most amazing keyboard available. I one of the things Phil didn't mention is the inclusion of Google voice input for continuous speaking when compared with swipes fire input. A hundred times better.

Also no need for the loop function for double letters but this is also the same in the 4.2 keyboard

He probably didn't mention it being that google voice input for continuous speaking(as you put it) was also availabe on the swiftkey 3 as well so its nothing new on this version.

I loooooove Swiftkey, it's my keyboard of choice... When I installed 4.2 I immediatly saw that the Android keyboard was different but...
As I need to type in 3 differents languages (english, french and spanish), Swiftkey immediatly recognize the language I'm using, that fantastic! I wonder, does this feature will be in Flow? Will I have to pay another version to get those features, if they're present?
Like I said, I really loooooooooove Swiftkey, but maybe better is too much... I don't know, I will sure try...

As long as it is the only keyboard replacement in Android that supports more than one language at the same time (no switching) it is the only option for me. Really, who switches languages in their keyboard depending on who are you testing to?

I've tried it for a bit but find that I concentrate much more on locating and selecting each individual letter and hardly make use if the fabulous prediction engine which is why I purchased swiftkey in the first place. I'm sure there's a comfort curve so I'll give a week exclusively and see how it goes.

Once you get used to the motion of swyping through letters, it's second nature. It's weird at first but you'll quickly learn where everything is and it takes almost zero effort. It's fantastic so far.

It is so much better. For me, it's strengths lie in all the options. Being able to set the time delay for long presses is an big deal. I made mine around 200ms. I tried the 4.2 keyboard ever since the update came out and it's still not as good as swift key.

i dont know why but i feel like 4.2 keyboard seems better..with flow it sometimes misses punctuations but i love the flow through space but needs more work.hopefully when its out of beta all the kinks will be gone...the one thing that swiftkey flow could borrow from google is the prediction that appears above the thumb when swiping, imo it makes it easier to know what you are ''typing''

For me, the 4.2 keyboard almost always misses punctuation. I'm used to Swype, but figured I'd give the new stock kb a try. It doesn't seem to learn at all...I'd swipe out a word, it wouldn't understand, I'd correct it, and it would make the same mistakes over and over. Swype learns based on the corrections I make...looking forward to seeing if this one does too.

I had been strictly using the Android keyboard since the 4.2.1 update. I downloaded the Flow Beta and I love it, but the swiping action breaks when I try to write an email or search Google Play. But I know that this is a beta, and other than those two issues, it's still the best keyboard across all platforms.

Galaxy S3....I like Flow, but it doesn't feel as fluid as Swype Beta 1.3. My S3 is a stock AT&T JB 4.1.1 and they included Swype 1.2, but it lacked the additional features 1.3 beta provides.

I'll likely play with it some more as I really like the Flow to the spacebar, even though for me, I have to "pause" on the spacebar for it to provide me with the space.
I know it is beta, but I think Swype 1.3 beta is still slightly better.

Is everyone in America downloading the same dictionary right now, or is there a problem with downloading to the nexus 7?

i had to try it few times as it kept failing to download..its servers are probably overloaded which shows how popular this keyboard is

Much better and faster than Swype. Already love SwiftKey, now I love it even more, this was THE missing feature that barred me from migrating completely. Now, I don't need Swype anymore and it's a hell lot more accurate than the stock Android 4.2 keyboard.

I have to question just what Swypes business model is, the original swype that came on the DroidX was mindblowing at the time. Yet well over 2 years later and it's still in beta. Now stock google and swiftkey have swiping. I fear it may just shutdown soon. I still love it and prefer it. Tried the new stock google one, but the accuracy is way below Swype.

Swype was bought out by Nuance Communications and they mainly rely on manufacturers to license their technologies in their devices. SwiftKey relies on both retail sales and device licensing.

So far, not as impressed as I would have hoped. On a Nexus 4, so I am comparing this to the stock keyboard's Swype/Flow feature.

1. I selected US English, but am presented with a ñ key right to the right of the L key. Nothing I do can get rid of it. Also, predition has English and Spanish in it, which makes a large portion of my typing in another language that I never enabled, and can't turn off.

2. Typing 'three' always puts 'the' on the screen, and it's very difficult to select 'three' as a replacement to the prediction. On Swype, if you want to put a letter in twice you simply squiggle over that letter as you're typing and you get it. In Flow and the Stock Android 4.2 keyboard, that's not implimented. So 'too' is always 'to' and 'three' is always 'the.' Unfortunate. At least on the stock Android keyboard, 'too' and 'three' are always options to select after typing it.

Go into the Swiftkey settings, languages & layouts, click on the keyboard icon to change the layout to qwerty.

Does Flow include permanant access to voice on the Keyboard? AT&T GN2 stock 4.1.1, you have to make separate access to the voice feature anytime you use it.
Also are the different keyboard layouts for some of the larger display devices like the GN2 in Landscape.
I'm wondering if there is a big change as the native keyboard on the GN2 is a version of Flow already.

Yeah, mine got to 99% downloading the language and stopped followed by the error? I'll have to try again later.

It's beautiful. I wish there was a way to import all the words and typing habits my normal swiftkey has learned to flow tho :p

I have been using the SlideIT keyboard for quite awhile due to it being a swype keyboard that worked really well. However, I am happy to see SwiftKey add this feature into their keyboard and I am definitely going to check it out.

I believe I am as well. I just checked my phone and Flow accounts for 14% of my battery drain. 2nd highest next to my screen.

Mine was about that high as well. It's down to 8% now. I think because I am not using it as much when I text. Hoping it is just a part of being the beta version. I have never had battery drain with the app before.

Do you need to have swiftkey 3 to use swiftkey flow? Does swiftkey flow have the same swiftkey 3 built engine, meaning that is flow less powerful at prediction than 3?

SwiftKey Flow is a completely separate app. Think of it as SwiftKey 4 (which is really what it is).

All features, and prediction ability, should be exactly the same as SwiftKey 3 only with the added Flow function.

After playing with it for a little while I've gone back to the stock Android 4.2 swipe keyboard. I find it to be a little more consistent getting the words I'm swiping - and just didn't find the swipe through space-bar useful. If anything it ended up killing a lot of my complete sentences before I could finish them.

I noticed that one can only type so many words before the space bar kills your sentences, as mentioned above. It's a bit of a pain right now, so I'm hoping that it moves on from beta soon.

I tried it for most of the day today and had to go back to swype which ends up happening every time I try a new keyboard. Maybe I was doing something wrong buy swype is more fluid and makes it easier for me to type.

I tried "the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" and "jumped" ALWAYS ends up as "jumps". If I leave out "fox" then I get "jumped" when I flow "jumped". Seems like a prediction thing.

Lol. I did it a few times and now it says "jumped". I am really liking Swiftkey Flow on my GS3. I am going to be using it from now on.

No browser use, no use to quickly type names in GMail, no flow for punctuation marks. Remind me again why I'm excited about Flow?

I wanted to like flow. I really did. But I don't. Words at often way off when inputted with flow. Some features were nice, but flow through space is to unreliable. There were to many times when flow did not understand something I was typing and the whole sentence in wad working on had to be begun again. If as word was incorrect the other possibilities listed where way off. There is no good way to handle words with apostrophes. Typing this message h has taken me at least twice the time it would have with swype.

I wanted to like flow. I really did. But I don't. Words at often way off when inputted with flow. Some features were nice, but flow through space is to unreliable. There were to many times when flow did not understand something I was typing and the whole sentence in wad working on had to be begun again. If as word was incorrect the other possibilities listed where way off. There is no good way to handle words with apostrophes. Typing this message h has taken me at least twice the time it would have with swype.

I've been using Swift Key Flow for a couple of days now and I can say it's smooth as silk, little bit of hesitation after a key stroke.....or swipe. I say not too shabby so far as it's in beta.

Really like how it uses my personal dictionary from swiftkey 3... Guessing this will be the next upgrade and not a stand alone app. One more thing, go to the swift key beta forums and let them know there about any thing odd you find. After all, you are beta testing the app and they need all the feedback they can get for their release candidate.

Thanks android central for this recommendation until now I was using swype beta. This seems like a much better keyboard. Again thank you.

Works fine in the browser for me. Typing this post with it. Swype and all. It doesn't work on the url tab but all the others on the browser it works just fine