SwiftKey Note review
"I am writing this using SwiftKey on the iPad mini." Yes, you read that correctly - SwiftKey on an Apple device.
If you’re wondering how the predictive keyboard software has made its way from Android to Apple, then, no, it's not magic. SwiftKey Note, a dedicated note taking-app, has launched for the iPhone and iPad to showcase its technology, as well as offer iPhone and iPad users a chance to benefit from the technology Android users have been enjoying for some time.
How does it translate into the Apple experience? We’ve been exploring SwiftKey Note ahead of its launch to find out.
SwiftKey on iOS
SwiftKey uses a blend of artificial intelligence technologies that enable it to predict the next word the user intends to type. On a rather bumpy train journey SwiftKey Note has already auto-corrected a number of typos that carriage-knocked hands have made writing this very text.
In the Note app the keyboard on the surface looks identical to the Apple keyboard you are used to. The difference is that behind the scenes it's quickly working to automatically correct mistakes you are making as well as suggesting the next word via suggestions that appear above the keyboard. Just in the same way the software does on Android, the goal is to speed up your typing.
The more you type the more the keyboard learns and the better it becomes with your writing style.
Android users get to improve that learning process faster by connecting to the SwiftKey Cloud. It taps into the way you write in Gmail, Twitter and Facebook, and analyses your writing style to help improve that learning process, storing your personal language profile to sync across your SwiftKey devices.
That feature hasn't been enabled yet on the iOS app. Instead it will learn by plugging in to Evernote, and if you've been using that service then you've unknowingly helped the app to learn your writing style already.
If you've got an Evernote account then everything can automatically be synced and likewise all your Evernote notes can be pulled into SwiftKey Note too. If you don't fancy Evernote, then notes can be shared via email, text, or Apple's Airdrop service to another iPad or iPhone.
The lack of Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook support isn't necessarily a bad thing. One of the issues we've sometimes had with SwiftKey on Android is that it likes to try and replicate our condensed Twitter speak a little too much when it comes to suggestions.
Talking directly to the SwiftKey team, we get the feeling that adding Cloud support is top of its to do list, especially if it wants to live up to the promise of being a platform rather than just a collection of apps and keyboards.
Typing at speed
The keyboard is the crux of the technology that is present in Note. It works well, and aside from the odd mistake - we would always recommend re-reading what you've written to start with - on the whole it sped up our typing input. We've been using the app for a week and quickly got to the point where we didn't really have to stop to think whether we had pressed the right key or not as we jabbed away in the rough direction of where the letters are.
Typing at speed means that you have to have a rough idea of how to spell, but the ability to type up to three words without spaces and for the app just work it out for you is pretty special. We've always rated Apple's keyboard and autocorrect functionality (just don't mention all those autocorrect sites), but SwiftKey's offering makes that look like child's play.
With the iPad mini we've typed both in landscape and portrait, as well as with a Bluetooth keyboard. With the Bluetooth keyboard it's clearly harder to use the word suggestions, but then it is easier to really start typing at speed and have the app autocorrect you out of trouble. The iPhone experience delivers the most benefit due to the size of the screen and the real estate you have to manage with your fingers.
Notes, notebooks and tags
Having a great keyboard is one thing, what about what else the app can actually do?
It's admittedly basic but that's okay. The app is broken down into notes, notebooks, and tags. The notes are what you create, the notebooks allow you to assign your notes in collections, and tags lets you avoid pigeonholing stuff all together.
As with the SwiftKey Android keyboard the Note app supports a number of languages and let's you use up to three in the same document. Bellissimo. Einfach klasse.
We've been living with the SwiftKey Note app for a week using it as our main note-taking app on the iPad mini and the iPhone 5S.
Unfortunately, the benefits of the app don't run across the entire device and that means when you start jabbing the keyboard in the same sloppy way in other apps, you won't get the useful results that SwiftKey Note offers. Maybe that will force you to think about moving to Android, or just wishing that Apple would relax its rules on third-party keyboards.
There is plenty to improve upon, and some will find the autocorrect approach frustrating at times. But on the whole, we like the SwiftKey Note app and if you're a note taker, we suspect you will too.