Android on-screen Keyboards

The quick recommendation: There is no one size fits all – try a few with the features and font size you need.

The longer answer:

Firstly, this is a longer post than previously but there wasn’t an easy place to break it up and choosing a suitable keyboard is one aspect where there isn’t a clear best answer but what you use does fundamentally affect how smoothly you can interact with your device.  There are many on screen keyboards available for Android, all with different features and different ways of predicting text (or not) and displaying different items on the main keyboard (number row, arrows, etc).

I tested as many of the ‘large print’ and most of the more popular keyboards I could find.  I excluded several keyboards with ‘dymanic’ layouts such as the ThickButtons Keyboard (where keys change size depending on what the keyboard expects you to need next) as these require even more constant scrutiny of the keyboard visually and were more tiring to use than even a constant layout, smaller print keyboard.  I have listed them here in order of their key text size on my Galaxy Note II with its 5.5” screen (and the size of suggestions and secondary characters which can be accessed by holding down keys), as well as colour options and whether they work with speech:

Keyboard URL Price Works with Talkback? Layout / colours Letter size Secondary symbol Suggestion size

A.I.type Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aitype.android

$3.99

No Themes 36pt 16pt

LinType Keyboard Beta

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lrandroid.lintype Beta No Themes 32pt 10pt

Perfect Keyboard free

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=free.inputmethod.latin.perfectkeyboard

$2.99

No White on grey 28pt 16pt

Flexpansion Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.flexpansion.android

$1.91

No Themes 25pt 11pt 18pt

Ultra Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.binarybulge.android.apps.keyboard.trial

$2.38

No Customisable 24pt 12pt 18pt

Dodol

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fiberthemax.OpQ2keyboard

$0.00

No Customisable 22pt 12pt 10pt

Jelly Bean keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.jlsoft.inputmethod.latin.jelly.free

$3.11

Yes Themes 20pt 12pt 14pt

TSwipe-Pro

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thaicomcenter.android.tswipepro

$0.00

No Themes 18pt 18pt 18pt

Agile Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.np.Agile.Keyboard&hl=en

$1.25

No White on black 18pt 16pt

Kii keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.zl.inputmethod.latin

$0.00

Yes Themes 18pt 14pt 12pt

Big buttons keyboard standard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bigbuttons

$2.90

No White on grey, Modified querty (in grid) 18pt

Adaptxt Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.kpt.adaptxt.beta

$0.99

No Purchasable 17pt 12pt 16pt

Big keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mah.big.keyboard

$0.00

No White on grey, grid layout 16pt 16pt

Swiftkey Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.touchtype.swiftkey.phone.trial

$3.99

No Customisable 16pt 12pt 14pt

Easy keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.customizingandroid.easykeyboard.free

$2.89

No Themes 16pt 8pt 12pt

Interwrite

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.sunnysoft.iwkeyboard

$0.00

No Black on white 16pt 12pt

Slide IT keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dasur.slideit.vt.lite

$3.99

No Customisable 16pt 8pt 10pt

Google Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.google.android.inputmethod.latin

$0.00

Yes White on grey 14pt 6pt 12pt

iKnowU

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iknowu&hl=en

$0.99

No Themes 14pt 10pt 12pt

Cellular Big Button Keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.celllatinime.latinp

$0.99

Yes White on grey honeycomb shaped keys 14pt 12pt

Samsung Keyboard

(On Samsung phones)

$0.00

Yes White on grey 14pt 12pt

Magic keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.picomat.magickeyboardfree

$2.99

No Themes 14pt 10pt 11pt

swype

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nuance.swype.trial

$0.99

No Themes 14pt 8pt 10pt

Touchpal

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cootek.smartinputv5

$0.00

No Themes 13pt 6pt 13pt

Super keyboard

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.beautifulapps.superkeyboard.free

$3.11

No White on dark grey with silver background 12pt 8pt 14pt

There are several main options for entering text into Android, each has their pros and cons:

–       Only Tap – Entering each character manually.  The downside of this method is that it is very easy to slightly miss a letter and enter typos.

–       Sliding (or Swiping).  This method involves placing your finger on the first letter in a word then sliding across to the next letter, then without lifting, slide to the next letter and so on.  The keyboard’s dictionary will then predict which word you have typed.  The advantage is that you can often get away with not being quite as accurate and it doesn’t require as much concentration, staring at the screen.  Another big advantage is if you have Android 4.2, you can enter text quickly without tapping the screen repeatedly and inadvertently turning the magnifier on and off.

–       Tap w/ Word prediction.  As you are typing a word, a line above the keyboard shows the most likely words you are trying to enter and you can stop typing and tap on one of the words.  The disadvantage of this mode is that you need to be constantly concentrating on the list of suggestions, which on most of the keyboards I tested, was in a smaller font than the keyboard itself.  I found on many keyboards, the most efficient way of using the suggestions, was to type at least three letters before looking for suggestions.

Voice input.  To be honest I didn’t really test this method, as quite often I’m in public and would rather type discretely into my device rather than talk into it (gone are the days when ‘talking into it’ was solely what a mobile phone were for!).

The next table lists the keyboards by order of the available input methods and key text size, and also lists some of the features of each:

Learns – Indicates whether the keyboard learns words that you type, in order to offer them to you as suggestions in the future.

Auto Correct – automatically correct common typing errors.  Great when it fixes things you mistype, but frustrating if it changes something you weren’t expecting.

Auto Capitalise – Indicates whether the first letter in a new sentence is capitalised.

Number Row – Indicates whether there is a row of numbers at the of the main keyboard screen.  If not, it will be on a secondary screen available by a key on screen.  On some keyboards numbers and symbols can be accessed by holding down certain letters.

Arrows – These, if present, allow you to move through text you are typing character by character, or line by line.  This can be easier than trying to tap in the right place in the text itself to edit.

Keyboard Method Learns Auto Correct Auto-capitalise Number row Arrows

LinType Keyboard

Slide Yes No No Yes No

Ultra Keyboard

Slide Yes Yes No Selectable Selectable

TSwipe-Pro

Slide Yes No Yes No Secondary

Slide IT keyboard

Slide Yes Yes Yes No No

Swiftkey Keyboard

Slide Yes Yes Yes No No

Cellular Big Button

Slide Yes Yes No No No

Samsung Keyboard

Slide Yes No Yes Yes No

Swipe

Slide Yes Yes No No No

Google Keyboard

Slide No Yes No No No

Touchpal

Slide Yes Yes No No No

A.I.type Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No Yes No

Perfect Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No Yes

Flexpansion Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction No Yes No Selectable No

Jelly Bean keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No Yes

Agile Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes No No No No

Kii keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No Full version Full version

Adaptxt Keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes Yes No No

Big keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No No

Easy keyboard

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No Selectable Selectable

iKnowU

Tap w/ prediction Yes Yes No No No

Super keyboard

Tap w/ prediction No Yes No No No

Dodol

Only tap No Yes No Selectable Selectable

Big buttons keyboard

Only tap No No Only new line No No

Interwrite

Only tap No No No No No

Magic keyboard

Only tap Yes No Yes No No

I took two pieces of text (The Hail Mary prayer, and a typical email I sent a friend recently with more common and informal text but more varied punctuation), which worked out just over 40 words each.  I typed each out both by tapping, sliding and using the word prediction where available with each keyboard, and timed it, then took the averages to come up with the table below, sorted by the speed of each.  For comparison I also tested with a ¾ size Bluetooth keyboard connected to my phone, and a full size PC keyboard (on my PC):

Keyboard

Method Average WPM Rank

Full size PC keyboard

Touch Type

63.20

1

3/4 size bluetooth keyboard

Touch Type

39.18

2

swype

Slide

37.64

3

Touchpal

Slide

35.92

4

Google Keyboard

Slide

34.13

5

Slide IT keyboard

Slide

33.39

6

Samsung Keyboard

Slide

33.29

7

A.I.type Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

31.52

8

Agile Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

30.81

9

Touchpal

Only tap

29.43

10

Kii keyboard

Only tap

29.07

11

Cellular Big Button Keyboard

Slide

28.91

12

Swiftkey Keyboard

Only tap

28.88

13

A.I.type Keyboard

Only tap

28.62

14

Swiftkey Keyboard

Slide

28.58

15

Adaptxt Keyboard

Only tap

28.06

16

Slide IT keyboard

Only tap

27.76

17

Flexpansion Keyboard

Only tap

27.66

18

Ultra Keyboard

Only tap

27.38

19

Dodol

Only tap

26.76

20

Google Keyboard

Only tap

26.63

21

Adaptxt Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

26.61

22

LinType Keyboard Beta

Only tap

26.45

23

Magic keyboard

Only tap

26.37

24

Ultra Keyboard

Slide

26.06

25

Perfect Keyboard free

Only tap

25.69

26

Super keyboard

Only tap

25.67

27

swype

Only tap

25.21

28

Touchpal

Tap w/ word prediction

25.10

29

iKnowU

Only tap

24.77

30

Cellular Big Button Keyboard

Only tap

24.63

31

Easy keyboard

Only tap

24.45

32

Agile Keyboard

Only tap

24.41

33

Interwrite

Only tap

24.25

34

Ultra Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

23.69

35

Flexpansion Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

23.63

36

Samsung Keyboard

Only tap

23.28

37

Jelly Bean keyboard

Only tap

23.26

38

swype

Tap w/ word prediction

23.04

39

TSwipe-Pro

Slide

22.10

40

LinType Keyboard Beta

Tap w/ word prediction

21.72

41

Swiftkey Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

20.96

42

TSwipe-Pro

Only tap

20.93

43

LinType Keyboard Beta

Slide

20.91

44

Google Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

20.81

45

Perfect Keyboard free

Tap w/ word prediction

20.65

46

Easy keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

20.56

47

Samsung Keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.77

48

Slide IT keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.58

49

Kii keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.33

50

Jelly Bean keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

19.06

51

Super keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

18.70

52

iKnowU

Tap w/ word prediction

18.44

53

TSwipe-Pro

Tap w/ word prediction

16.03

54

Big buttons keyboard standard

Only tap

14.80

55

Big keyboard

Only tap

14.41

56

Big keyboard

Tap w/ word prediction

13.36

57

While the physical keyboards came out on top, carrying around and pairing Bluetooth devices isn’t always convenient.  Interestingly, the size of the key text was only one factor in how quickly I was able to type during the test.  Many of the extra large print keyboards, either don’t have slide input or don’t have very accurate word prediction (Ultra keyboard is very customisable but I do often find I need to look at the list of suggested words to choose the right word), and many of the keyboards with excellent prediction don’t allow very large print (eg Swipe or the Samsung keyboard).  Having a keyboard I can read easily though is still more comfortable than one I can potentially type faster on, but which I need to concentrate more to use.

I was interested to see that using word prediction actually slowed the speed down a lot in most cases, because on most of the keyboards, the suggested words are displayed in a much smaller font and it took time to read through what were often very similar words to choose the right one – usually I found this was more worthwhile when writing longer words with unique letters near the start (eg keyb…..).  It does increase accuracy on keyboards which don’t automatically correct to the most likely suggestion.

Another point to mention is that as a longstanding touch typist, I am quite familiar with the traditional QWERTY layout so can navigate some of the listed keyboards with smaller keys without too much difficulty even without reading the letters clearly, and also I did have more difficulty with some of the modified layouts such as on the Big Keyboard and Big Buttons Keyboard, as the keys weren’t necessarily where I instinctively expected them to be.

Summary:

Key text and word suggestion size will likely give you a starting point on which keyboards you can see.  Trial a few suitable keyboards to see which features you prefer.  Ideally many of the keyboards work best if you try them for a few days in order for them to ‘learn’ how you type to better tailor suggestions.  I didn’t do that with all the keyboards in the test, and it also meant I sometimes had to search for punctuation marks, if they weren’t where I was used to finding them.

Which keyboard do you use with your Android?  Share your findings in the comments below.

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