Tech Talk: Keys that know your type

Now you can swipe instead of type on your phone
Now you can swipe instead of type on your phone
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IF you’re all fingers and thumbs when trying to send a text on your smartphone, there’s no need to buy a new phone – just download a different keyboard.

One of the little-known features of all Android phones – that’s more-or-less any of the current models not made by Apple – is that the pop-up keyboard which appears on screen whenever you press a text field isn’t embedded in the operating system; it’s a simple app that can be replaced.

This could be any of a dozen or more which let you not only customise and resize the keys to suit your fingers but also swipe across the letters instead of pressing them. This means your finger never leaves the screen as the keyboard completes your words for you.

Some keyboards are free; most cost just a couple of pounds, yet can transform your mobile texting and browsing experience. Here are some of the best ones...

Smart Keyboard is the one to choose if you’re running out of app space on your phone. It uses far less memory than most of the others yet finishes words for you and lets you enlarge the keys. If you suffer from Apple envy, you can set its appearance to mimic that of the iPhone.

SwiftKey is the keyboard of choice for many hard-core texters. It can predict what you’re about to type, based on your previous texts and emails, so you sometimes hardly have to press the keys at all. You do have to give it permission to access your data if you want it to learn from your correspondence, though.

Swype, as its name suggests, enables typing by swiping across the keys instead of pressing them. It’s clever enough to guess what you’re typing even if your fingers are wide of the mark, and it can also recognise handwriting on some devices.

If your phone is a Samsung, Swype may already be installed; if not, you have to download it from Swype’s website because unlike all the other keyboards here, it’s not available from the Google Play app store. If you’d prefer to keep it simple, SlideIT is a fair copy of Swype and more readily available.

If you’ve become used to texting with your thumbs, you might want to try out a system designed for the purpose, and Thumb Keyboard fits the bill nicely, splitting the keys down the middle so you don’t have to reach too far in any direction to hit the one you want. There’s a spacebar on each side, too, but the central aisle reduces the space available for the keys themselves, so on a small screen they may appear smaller than ever.

If you like any of these, text a friend to spread the word. Or better still – swipe them.