SwiftKey has been promising its own answer to Swype ever since it launched the SwiftKey Flow beta late last year, and the company's retort is at last finished. The newly available SwiftKey 4 -- Flow is just a component here -- brings Android writers the promised gesture-based typing along with Flow Through Space, which lets users glide to the spacebar to keep typing rather than pause after every word. The upgrade also expands contextual word prediction to 60 languages, offers simpler corrections and watches for personal typing habits to adjust accordingly -- it should learn whether you're a hunt-and-peck newcomer or a seasoned pro blazing along with both thumbs. The update is free for existing users in both phone- and tablet-sized forms, and it's temporarily priced at $2 (normally $4) to lure in anyone who isn't happy with their existing input methods.
We gave the final version a spin on a Galaxy Nexus, and much of what we saw in the SwiftKey Flow beta holds true with SwiftKey 4. Anyone comfy with a gesture-based keyboard will be happy with the speed and accuracy here, especially when they don't have to lift their finger between words. However, the previous quirks remain as well: Flow Through Space tends to melt down after a few words, so you'll want to stop after "the quick brown fox" before you finish with "jumps over the lazy dog." The style recognition is harder to gauge when this author is an an experienced user who's only had a short while to teach the app any tricks, but the simplified corrections are handy for quickly polishing up a sentence. While we don't feel that SwiftKey is orchestrating a revolution with version 4, it doesn't have to -- the appeal here is not having to give up SwiftKey's generally well-regarded feel to get a feature previously reserved for competitors. It remains our go-to keyboard for those times we don't like what Google or phone designers have to offer.