iOS may have adopted the use of third-party keyboards in the last couple years, but Android still leads the way when it comes to customizable, feature-packed keyboard alternatives. But how do you decide what to download? We've surveyed the Google Play store for the top options. From smarter predictive typing and highly customizable keyboard layouts to swipe typing, gesture controls and specialized layouts. Here are the 15 best Android keyboards available.
You might not expect a stock keyboard to be a contender, but Google has continuously improved the default Android keyboard. The newest iteration, Gboard, has all the features you'd want out of a good virtual keyboard such as gesture typing, dictation powered by Google's voice search, multi-language support and emoji input. It also supports non-standard and langauge specific keyboard layouts. In addition, Gboard builds Google search right into the keyboard, with a G key on the recommendation bar allowing you to quickly do a web search, get word definitions, find nearby stores and restaurants or anything else you might need without leaving your current app.
MORE: Google Gboard Hands-on
SwiftKey has long been a powerhouse among Android keyboards, providing extreme customizations that are both functional and cosmetic. Plus, it incorporates features such as swipe typing. In addition the variety of keyboard layouts and input options, SwiftKey offers SwiftKey Cloud, a predictive tool that can link to your social networks so that SwiftKey can learn your typing habits, right down to predictive use of emoji. The app is free, but there is an in-app store for themes and cosmetic customizations.
Swiftmoji is a SwiftKey spinoff that focuses squarely on emoji, applying Swiftkey's predictive typing magic to the use of emoji. Like its more general use predecessor, Swiftmoji applies machine learning to your emoji use, learning which symbols you like to use and preemptively suggesting them to you as you type through the emoji bar.
Another Android keyboard hot on the heels of SwiftKey is Fleksy, which comes with all the standard features such as swipe typing and an autocorrect that learns from your vocabulary. Neat features such as gesture-driven typing shortcuts for a variety of tasks like deleting words, entering new dictionary items, or cycling through or undoing corrections round out what we like. And that's not even mentioning Fleksy's numerous extensions for extra functionality, such as an optional number row, GIF support, emoji and more.
The Slash Keyboard is all about connecting other apps and services straight to your keyboard with special slash commands. Typing the '/' key followed by an app-related shortcut allows you to share, search or bring up data from other apps and services, such as sharing a Spotify song, search Google, or send a GIF through Giphy. In addition, users can also create their own custom text shortcuts with the slash key, such as, for example '/work' or '/home' as a shortcut for your work or home address.
ai.type is an old favorite when it comes to Android keyboards, featuring staples such as smart autocorrect and predictive typing in more than 50 languages, swipe typing, configurable layouts, a variety of themes and a library of emoji built-in. The app includes dictation support, on-keyboard search and support for a variety of languages. A premium version ($3.99) removes ads and unlocks premium features.
The pioneer in gesture-based typing controls, Swype's competitive edge has been blunted as more and more keyboards have implemented their own swipe typing system. That said, Swype provides slick gesture typing, numerous keyboard layout customizations, emoji, an optional crowd-sourced dictionary of new terms and phrases and a predictive typing and learning system. Plus, you get a dictation system powered by Dragon's voice engine. Another neat feature is a gesture shortcut system for common operations such as copy and paste.