SwiftKey Flow apes Swype for Android keyboard dominance

There’s an interesting little battle going on right now between SwiftKey and Swype, arguably the two best alternative keyboards for Android.

The latest shot comes from SwiftKey, whose upcoming SwiftKey Flow takes direct aim at Swype’s main swiping feature. As a demo video on YouTube shows, Flow figures out which word to type as users glide their fingers over a sequence of letters.

If you’ve never used Swype, this method of typing sounds kind of crazy, but it works really well once you get used to it. I use Swype on my Samsung Galaxy S II, and after couple weeks of use, everything else just feels impossibly slow.

Judging from the demo video, SwiftKey Glide has one feature that Swype lacks: It uses word prediction as you swipe, showing the suggested word just above the keyboard as your fingers pass over each letter. We’ll have to see how it works in practice, but in theory, it would allow you to stop swiping as soon as the desired word comes up. With Swype, words only appear once you’ve finished entering them in full.

In June, Swype added a few new features including word prediction and the ability to sync with Gmail, Twitter and Facebook for improved suggestions. Those are two of SwiftKey’s main features, so now it seems that SwiftKey is fighting back.

Still, the two keyboard alternativess have different business models. SwiftKey sells its product directly to users through Google Play for $4. (A one-month trial is available for free.). Swype makes deals with phone makers such as Samsung, who pre-load the keyboard on their devices, but users can download beta versions for free. Although they’re not competing directly, they’re clearly fighting for supremacy, and that can only be a good thing as Android users pursue the best typing experience they can get.

SwiftKey Flow isn’t available yet, but you can sign up for the beta now.

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