The best kittens, technology, and video games blog in the world.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

SwiftKey for Android review

Solea's Time... by ERIO from flickr (CC-NC-SA)

One of the reasons I've been reluctant to get a smartphone in the past is that it's pretty difficult to type on touchscreens. Input method was always my priority when it came to phone choice - I never got anywhere near keypad typing, and by previous phones all had either stylus-based virtual keyboard (which is actually fine since stylus tip is tiny compared with a finger), or an actual physical keyboard.

So even after I gave in and got myself a Galaxy S4 the first thing I looked for was better input methods.

Good things about SwiftKey

SwiftKey is a paid app, but it comes with a month trial period - reasonably long to learn if it works for you or not.

Unlike with all the predictive text methods (and for that matter all spellchecking) I saw, it can support multiple languages (English and Polish) without switching between them in menu all the time. It just tries to figure out the language from context and is pretty happy to switch it in the middle of text if you need it.

This was always hugely annoying and it's a proof that Americans with their massive single language bias should stay the hell away from designing any software having to do with languages. The world differs from Murica not in people using a single non-English language - it differs in people using multiple languages. I know, shocking, right? (SwiftKey is London based - in UK people are more aware that non-English languages exist).

At least for English it's pretty reasonable most of the time, and it's very easy to fall back to manually fixing the word if it doesn't get it right.

SwiftKey also doesn't try to censor every ducking thing you write, unlike some other predictive text systems I won't mention.

Bad things about SwitfKey

One very bad but easily fixable thing is long touch delay for punctuation. If you need some punctuation like "://" you long press the letter key on virtual keyboard corresponding to particular symbol - but defaults are just insanely slow. Yes, it's easy to fix it, but then if that excuse worked we'd all be using Emacs, right?

A more annoying problem is that it's not very context aware. For example if you try to type URL it will likely contain whole words. So you type one word, then second word, then ".com" and done, right? Well, not so much because SwiftKey "helpfully" inserted spaces between the words for you and now you need to go back and fix them. It really needs some concept of contexts where spaces should not be included.

And second big problem is quality of Polish language support. Unlike with English where it has decent success rate, Polish support barely even gets half the words right - and when it doesn't it's very difficult to correct it yourself with proper Polish diacritical characters.

Overall, it's a 4/5 for English, 3/5 for Polish. Much better than I expected from touchscreen devices (I expected regretting ever buying a touchscreen phone), but it's still nowhere near good enough level.

No comments: