Exclusive: SwiftKey tweaks its Android keyboard for tablets (hands-on with video)

SwiftKey for Android was one of the breakout stars in the virtual keyboard business last year, thanks to a unique predictive phrase system that learns how you talk (or write, as it were) and recommends entire words based on your personal style. It sounds weird, but it's surprisingly helpful -- and even if you don't use the phrase prediction aspect at all, it's simply a well laid-out, easy-to-use keyboard. The company has big plans for 2011 with talks of OEM deals in the pipeline, UI and functionality tweaks, new utilities for learning your writing habits by ingesting RSS feeds, Facebook posts, Gmail, and other sources... oh, and this: a new app customized for use on Android tablets.

Text entry on tablets is a challenge that manufacturers and software vendors have been trying to solve for a long, long time, and one look in a busy airport with dozens of people trying to type on iPads carefully-balanced on their laps will tell you that we've still got a long way to go. We're not sure how SwiftKey's new version will work on 10-inch tablets (take the Xoom, for instance), but we had a chance to check it out on a Galaxy Tab -- and we have to say that it's probably the best landscape virtual keyboard we've used on a 7-inch tablet so far. Swype and other tracing keyboards seem out of place on a screen this big, but SwiftKey takes advantage of the fact that your thumbs are so far apart by splitting your QWERTY into two parts and placing the lesser-used numbers in the center.

The keyboard isn't ready for prime time just yet -- SwiftKey still bills it as a prototype -- but we imagine it'll be available before too long. Follow the break for a hands-on video!

Additional reporting by Jose Andrade