Customize Your Phone's Keyboard with These Apps
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.
Slash Keyboard (Free)
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.
TouchPal includes most of the features of best-in-class apps for free, such as gesture typing with word prediction and autocorrect, support for multiple layouts (such as T9+ and multi-language input), as well as numerous other customizations. Users can sign up for a premium service that includes access to TouchPal Cloud for cross-device syncing of your personal dictionary and predictive typing settings, as well as cloud-enhanced typing suggestions and an extended emoji gallery.
Chrooma is a third-party Android keyboard that adds some interesting interface configurations to the mix to give it a neat Material design flair. It covers your mobile keyboard basics, such as swipe typing, predictive typing, autocorrect and more. Chrooma can be configured to automatically change its color scheme based on the active app, or when battery saving mode is enabled, and the keyboard also includes a Night Mode that can be set to automatically trigger based on your device's light sensor. Further keyboard customizations and variant layouts, as well as settings synchronization are available with an in-app purchases.
Ginger Keyboard (Freemium, $0.99/month)
Ginger Keyboard is a custom Android keyboard powered by the spelling- and grammar-hecking software of the same name, bringing over its own brand of predictive typing and writing aids to mobile users. Predictive typing and word suggestions and corrections are a strong point; the app can also recommend sentence rephrasing and translations as well as tap Ginger's Page app for writing suggestions. Ginger Keyboard also features customizable themes, swipe typing and translations, as well as built in minigames like Snake and Pong-clones. The app works on a freemium subscription model with the ad-supported free tier offering limited translations and corrections; a premium subscription removes those limits and ads.
Smart Keyboard Pro ($1.99)
Another old favorite is Smart Keyboard Pro, which works even on Gingerbread (2.3) phones and up, offering custom keyboard layouts, emoji and more. The app supports a number of languages and alphabets as well as voice input and gesture controls with a number of configurable swipe shortcuts. That said, the app does have one notable weakness compared to other more modern keyboard apps: a lack of swipe typing. Still, if you're running an old Android device and are looking for a good, highly configurable virtual keyboard, Smart Keyboard Pro is worth a try.
GO Keyboard (Free, with in-app purchases)
The Go Dev Team has long had a reputation for developing quality free apps for Android, and the Go Keyboard is no exception. This app supports gesture typing, voice dictation, a variety of advanced layouts, cosmetic and functional customizations, more than 40 languages and a library of emoji. Where Go Keyboard stands out is in the vibrant "GO Market" that allows users to browse for a variety of plugins and themes, ranging from the functional to frivolous. The swipe typing could be smoother, but Go Keyboard provides a solid free keyboard with loads of customization.
Multiling O Keyboard (Free)
Multiling O Keyboard, as the name might suggest, is all about featuring support for as many languages and alphabets as it can, while also featuring extremely configurable keyboard layouts. The app supports more than 200 languages, includes gesture typing, emoji, emoticons, text transformation tools, and configurable themes and colors. The custom keyboard layouts are a standout, as the app supports variant layouts such as DVORAK and AZERTY, T9 keyboards, and layouts for foreign characters. The app even includes the means to design your own layout.
Hacker's Keyboard (Free)
If you miss the layout of a full-sized keyboard or need all of those missing keys like the Ctrl, Tab, arrow or the function keys, check out Hacker's Keyboard. Based on the AOSP Gingerbread keyboard with multitouch, the Hacker's Keyboard mimics the layout of a laptop or netbook keyboard, complete with extras such as the Escape and arrow keys; you'll also get punctuation marks in the normal qwerty layout. An extra page of keys provides you with function keys and a number pad. The app supports a variety of keyboard language layouts, with dictionaries available for download. It's a really useful tool if you're mucking around in the command line or a remote terminal.
Good keyboards need not be slaves to the traditional multi-row QWERTY layout. A case-in-point is Minuum, a third-party keyboard most known for a neat, space-saving "mini-mode" layout that crams letters, numbers and punctuation all into a single row. Powered by an aggressive predictive typing engine, Minuum is surprisingly adept at figuring out what you want to type. You can also use it in the traditional keyboard layout, and the app comes with a variety of extras such as predictive emoji typing, cursor and clipboard tools. The mini-mode takes a bit getting used to, but it saves a lot of screen space, which is great on smaller screens.