Swiftkey 4.3 Layouts for Living beta hands-on: Fighting the phablet finger problem

SwiftKey is one of the most popular apps around, delivering a clever keyboard for your Android device that will predict your next word, giving you nice fast entry speeds, cloud back-up for your language profile, and a lot more.

We've seen SwiftKey bundling in more and more features, but the latest version of SwiftKey 4.3 introduces something called Layouts for Living. The app is now in public beta and we've been playing with it to see what difference this brings.

Layouts for Living gives you keyboard choices at your fingertips in a way that's never really been done before. Yes, you could have a compact keyboard on your BlackBerry Storm back in the day, but what SwiftKey is really addressing here is the wide range of device types and uses that Android now offers.

Those with keen eyes and keen fingers may prefer to take the keyboard smaller, so they can see just a little more of that WhatsApp conversation or message stream, those with larger fingers may want something bigger to tap on.

SwiftKey's Layouts for Living offers you exactly this, giving options for five different sizes of keyboard. The smallest might not work on a 4.3-inch device, but it gives you the choice to tailor it to your preference.

But SwiftKey Layouts for Living goes one giant step further, making a play directly for one of the biggest problems that faces phablet users: not being able to use it one-handed.

The problem comes when reaching across the device with your thumb to hit a key on the other side. Sometimes it's too far, sometimes you hit another key with the fleshy part of your hand in the process.

Layouts for Living gives you three styles of keyboard in addition to the five sizes. The thumb keyboard - which splits left and right designed for two-handed use - is nothing new, but the compact keyboard has us really excited.

The best feature is that it makes the keyboard narrower, so if you have a wide device, like the HTC One max, for example, you can use a keyboard that's still manageable when you're gripping the phone with one hand.

READ: HTC One max review

You can even switch it from side-to-side depending on whether you're gripping it in the left or the right hand. It really is very clever.

You can also detach the keyboard from the bottom of the display and move it to another location on the display. Honestly, we've not yet found this to be practically useful, but you can't complain about having choices.

SwiftKey 4.3 Layouts for Living is in public beta, so you can try it and see for yourself. We think you'll be impressed.