Fluency 2 - the next evolution of SwiftKey

TouchType will be demoing the next generation of its SwiftKey Android keyboard software in Barcelona at MWC 2011. Pocket-lint has had wind of this for a little while. What we know now as fact is that the app, possibly under the name Fluency 2 to reflect the underlying engine that powers the software, will not be available from next week and is still very much in the alpha phase.

We know this because we sat down with company founders Jon Reynolds and Ben Medlock who were good enough to walk us through what they’d put together for Swiftkey 2 so far, and what was still to come. We should stress that the menus and and options of what you see in our hands on photos will very likely be subject to change.

The first thing to notice is that the keyboard lay out is the same but the look and feel is much more of an integrated Android keyboard rather than a downloaded app. This is largely owing to the colour scheme more fitting with vanilla Android handsets such as the Nexus One and Samsung Galaxy S - the latter of which was the demo model for our meeting.

The most publicised change so far has been the ability of SwiftKey to use you Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and RSS feeds to scan through your writing to help build a better picture of your style. Until now, the app has only had access to your SMS but you will be able to log in with your separate credentials for each of these other services to allow the software to create a module of your language up in the cloud and then bring that back down to your phone to be used to predict your typing as you go.

There will also be some extra options in setting the way which the module will be used to predict your text entry. Rapidfire mode cuts down on the prediction element and instead will error correct your words. Here, your options will no longer drop out if you accidentally type the incorrect letters of a word. Instead of ignoring the word you were after, the SwiftKey software will make a judgement based on the most likely entry that you were after all the same. So, as per the example in the picture, you can write a fair bit of nonsense, but judging by the probability of the context, the app will still know that the word you were looking for was “everyone”.

Manual mode offers a similar situation with no auto-complete whatsoever, relying instead on pure prediction based on what you’ve typed, and there’ll also be an intriguing Custom mode where you can fine tune the way the predictions behave. What’s more, you’ll also have the choice of skins to be able to get the software to look how you want on your mobile as well.

One particularly interesting addition, which will not be available in the first launches of the next evolution of the SwifKey app, is something that Jon and Ben describe as “Input Modelling”.

Although still going through changes, the general idea is that it learns about the way you interact with your device. If you always miss the same letter, it will learn that that’s what you meant. It will learn how you interact with your keyboard and adjust for how you hold your device and which digits you use to type - something that will come in very handy for the difference between people using their thumbs or fingers when it comes to the SwiftKey Tablet software, as seen demoed on Android Honeycomb.

As for whether we’ll see SwiftKey as the default keyboard on devices other than those of INQ, the pair were positive that this was a direction that they wished to go. They said:

“We’re now really starting to make some progress with our other partners but we’re really not at the same level as with INQ who were very much our early adopters straight after last year’s MWC.”

“Would we like to work with Apple? Well, not if we want to be with anyone else. Looking at Apple’s sales figures for the last quarter, though, they wouldn’t be such be a bad fish to land. Let’s put it that way.”

Those looking to get in on the next evolution of the SwiftKey app might be a little disappointed however. TouchType will be looking carefully at how they launch its latest software. While those on the VIP scheme might be lucky enough to get a download for free, it possibly won’t be the same story for the rest of the world. It may be that current SwiftKey users will wake up one morning with the offer of a free update on their handsets but, although the pair were clearly still considering their options, the impression we got was it wasn’t the scenario that was most likely.