APP OF THE DAY: TouchPal keyboard review (Android)

Android keyboard are, honestly, a mess. The one you get with your phone will probably be one customised by the company that built your phone, or it might be one bought in because the hardware company lacked the expertise to do a good job itself. Most of them are really good, but there's zero consistency.

So if you're changing phones, what do you do? The HTC keyboard isn't readily available for Samsung phones, and the standard Android typer might not even be included - although, these days it mostly is, even if the default is something else.

One solution to all this, is to get a third-party keyboard app, and install it on all your devices. This then gives you some consistency, and you can improve your typing speed, accuracy and learn all the features.

TouchPal (Android)

Format
Android
Price
Free
Where
Google Play

This week, we've found TouchPal, and we have to say, we're very taken. The first thing we like is that it's skinnable. This is a minor point in some ways, but it does mean you can get the look you really want, rather than having what a developer thinks looks good. Beware though - some of the downloadable skins are hideous.

The app is also free, which is rather lovely. That puts is in a slightly better position than some of the other remium apps, although most third-party solutions have trials or free versions, so you know what you'll get when you spend some money. Still, free is better than paid, especially if the app works well.

And TouchPal actually does work well. The best feature has to be the layout flexibility. You can have 12, 26 or T+ keypads. The version with 12 keys is basically multi-tap. While it looks a bit outdated now, on a modern smartphone, it's actually a nice idea having it here, because it could help users transition from their older dumbphones, which use this sort of keyboard. The T+ keyboard has a few more keys, but letters share a button - which makes the buttons much easier to hit - and the predictive text sorts out the actual words. Again, like an older phone.

And finally, there's the more traditional Android keyboard, with its 26-key layout, that allows you to type reasonably quickly, but has smaller buttons, which are more prone to errors. There's typing correction here too though, so you shouldn't go too far wrong.

But perhaps the crowing glory of the 26-key 'board, is that it also has a Swype style "drag-to-type" arrangement. Join the letters of the word you're trying to write, and the phone will sort out the rest. It's good, pretty accurate, and you can get very fast using this method.

Aside from the normal keyboard functions, we also LOVE the fact that, in the middle of typing a text message - or anything else for that matter - you can press a button at the top of the keyboard, and launch a Twitter window. It might sound daft, but being able to tweet, without losing what you are doing is a nice touch. The same menu that allows you to send an impromptu tweet also holds another menu, which has navigational arrow keys and copy and paste buttons. Very cool indeed.

So while the keyboard that came with you phone is likely serving you well, remember, there's always better out there, and it doesn't need to cost, well, anything at all.