Swype keyboard launches on Google Play, brings the fight to Swiftkey

Swype has been launched as an alternative keyboard for Android through Google Play - the first time you've been able to get the keyboard on Android without it being an embedded offering.

Nuance, best known for dictation software, acquired Swype some 18 months ago and is now releasing the keyboard that first popularised trace entry as a standalone app.

It's not quite the Swype you might know from past Symbian devices, or embedded as an OEM solution on devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S II and III, but is a complete and competitive text-entry solution, incorporating tap, swipe, dictation and handwriting.

We sat down with John West, principle solution architect, and Reimund Schmald, marketing manager from Nuance Mobile, for an early introduction to the keyboard looking to end Swiftkey's dominance of the keyboard app market.

"You have the great T9 vocabulary behind this, which has been installed more than 7 billion times on most devices; you have a combination of vocabularies, the text vocabulary and the dictation vocabulary, no other keyboard in the world has that," said Schmald, emphasising that Swype is more than just a trace keyboard.

Swype offers smart contextual prediction, as well as language learning and your personal dictionary, plus its own Dragon dictation system, rather than depending on Google's voice recognition. This means that words you add to your typing dictionary can then be synced to the cloud and become part of your dictation vocabulary, because the systems are linked: a feature unique to the new Swype.

In addition, Swype's language engine also offers what it calls "living language". As West explains: "It's a permissions-based, anonymous crowdsourcing. We are looking at the words that people add to the dictionary and popular websites. We are scraping for trending words and we're adding them in the background." The idea is to give you a better chance of hitting that on-trend expression when you need it, like Django or Lmfao. 

The new Nuance Swype keyboard will also offer cloud syncing, which is a feature that will be popular with those using multiple devices, syncing your language dictionary across phones or tablets where you have signed into the keyboard.

While on tablets, the new Swype app is compatible with both smartphones and tablets and only costs 65p, so you only have to buy one app to get the smart keyboard on your Android devices.

The tablet offers a couple of innovative features. As well as the trace and split keyboards that are pretty common to tablet keyboards, you can also opt for a mini keyboard, approximately the size of a smartphone keyboard, that can be placed in a corner for one-handed use.

There is support for up to 66 languages, easily accessed through a long press of the spacebar or via a swiping gesture across the keyboard to access the previous language you were writing in - so you can work easily in different languages.

There are range of gestures on offer, for example letting you instantly open a phone-style keypad, making number entry much faster and easier. Another gesture, probably our favourite, will instantly open Google Maps. Others let you select, copy and paste. It's all very clever and works rather well.

Firing up Swype for Android we found that it was instantly giving us the words we expected and those gestures add a dynamic that makes the keyboard highly productive. There's a huge amount going on in Swype and where we felt that previously Swype couldn't keep up with Swiftkey, it now feels that Swype is a very serious competitor.

Swype for Android is available in Google Play for 65p, and we think it's well worth playing with.