back to article Meet the stealthiest UK startup's app Swiftkey - and its psychic* keyboard

If ever there was a company that found itself in the right place at the right time, it's TouchType - the team behind SwiftKey. The firm is one of Britain's most successful tech startups: it says its intellectual property is used in 100 million phones and that its SwiftKey software was last year's best-selling program in the …


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  1. Scott 53

    Latin audience?

    I would have thought this would be concentrated in the Vatican rather than the US.

    Faciam me tunica mea

  2. HipposRule


    doesn't work for me and the language pack won't download...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: French

    Why are you whining on here - tell the apps developers!

  4. TechnicalBen Silver badge

    Hope it works then...

    Just gone from a resistive touchscreen to a capacitive and hate the change. While one is more responsive, the other seemed more accurate. I miss the accuracy. :(

    Most touch devices are annoying. I would see this kind of tech as trying to solve a problem created by moving to touch, instead of trying to remove the problem all together. Hopefully new interactivity such as LeapMotion will make input more accurate again.

    (Esc, because the keyboard is best for typing. ;) )

  5. Steve Evans

    Re: Hope it works then...

    I know what you mean.

    Whilst modern smartphones have far more power than my old capacitive screened mobile, I do miss the ability to accurate tap with a fingernail. With a capacitive you can't, you have to use the huge squidgy end of your finger, which immediately obstructs the view of whatever it is you are trying to press!

  6. Chris Miller

    Looks very promising, but my concern is: does it need a fast data connection? In other words, will it work in London and some other favoured locations, but not at home or (consistently) on the train?

  7. Timmay

    It doesn't need a data connection at all, other than to initially download the thing.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is this the horrible future Apple and Google have left us in? Where we don't believe something as simple as a keyboard is at all possible without an internet connection?

  9. Chris Miller

    I was thinking more of the predictive text capabilities - I don't imagine it downloads a dictionary of all the world's languages onto my phone, so must rely on a database somewhere in the 'cloud'. Without these capabilities, I can't believe its recognition of my vague swirls over the keyboard is going to be very accurate.

  10. David Simpson 1

    Silly assumption, it downloads the language you choose to use depending on your location and learns phrases and words from your SMS, emails, Facebook and Twitter.

    Why on earth would that be hard ?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why would it need a dictionary of all the world's languages? It just needs the common words of whatever languages you routinely use, plus whatever non-standard words you use. To achieve this, when you install it, it lets you select languages to download (English (UK) and nothing else results in an app ~30MB in size, a piffling amount), and it then goes one step further and asks you for access to your facebook/email/whatever else to look at your past typing history.

    That's the main reason it appears to be so psychic. Instead of having to train itself over time with use, as its competitors do (or mostly don't), most users give it access to an enormous training set. The magic of Bayes's theorem means that the set itself doesn't actually have to be stored, only the resulting word->word probability values, which can be updated on the fly. Given a large enough training set to start with, this results in a very fast, very accurate predictor of what you're going to type next, without an enormous storage footprint.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Are you from SwiftKey?

  13. nora

    I don't understand, it is a keyboard, you don't need data connection. except when you first download it.

  14. nora

    Vocab does not cost a lot of storage, but context does.

    tree-based ngram context storage costs 8-20 bytes per ngram.

    also, sizeof the dictionary/context model does not equal to the size in memory.

  15. auburnman

    Good time for a retraction...

    I slagged off Swiftkey last time it was discussed on here... Something must have gone wrong the first time I installed it because I recently tried it again and I couldn't have been more wrong to dismiss it. Psychic is the word - it is so much better than anything else I've tried. Definitely worth a couple of quid.

  16. BlueGreen

    Re: Good time for a retraction...

    mate gave a demo of this in the pub. It was bloody amazing, slick as anything.

  17. censored

    Re: Good time for a retraction...

    Agreed. I really didn't get along with SwiftKey 3. I don't know why, but I uninstalled.

    This, however, is absolutely fantastic.

  18. Brian Morrison
    Thumb Up

    Re: Good time for a retraction...

    The really excellent thing about Swiftkey 4 is that the 'flow' swiping and the tap tap tap typing both work together seamlessly so you can switch between them in mid sentence or even mid word in some cases.

    I started using the beta a few weeks ago having been using Swiftkey since it first came out, then after a couple of days tried the flow method and haven't looked back. For some reason I couldn't get on with Swype, but this is just magic.

  19. jake Silver badge

    Not typing. Fondling.

    How many words per minute at a sustained rate? Inquiring minds & all that ...

  20. auburnman

    Re: Not typing. Fondling.

    Depends how long you've used it, it seems to learn your commonly used words & phrases quite quickly.

    "Are you coming out for a pint tonight?" can be done in nanoseconds.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Not typing. Fondling.

    If its learnt that phrase so quickly, I suggest you look at your drinking habits!

  22. Brian Morrison

    Re: Not typing. Fondling.

    It knows it after just one entry, you can retype it by simply starting the first word and then tapping the space bar or centre suggestion repeatedly until it's complete.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I would be surprised if Blackberry wasn't using a variation of it. The prediction is sometimes almost uncanny.

  24. Timmay

    Nexus 7

    I'm a huge fan of SwiftKey - have updated it on my GS3, but it doesn't seem compatible with my Nexus 7 anymore, so won't update...?

  25. John Wilson

    Re: Nexus 7

    I'm seeing the same thing. Have SwiftKey working fine on my HTC One X, but the update to the tablet version on my Nexus 7 is showing as 'incompatible with this device'. Given that the Nexus is practically a reference platform, seems an odd oversight.

  26. Afflicted.John

    Re: Nexus 7

    You will need the tablet version most likely.

  27. shade82000

    Re: Nexus 7

    I have whatever software comes with the Resurrection Remix ROM on my S2, but it seems to do the same swipey thing and it's very good for a small screen.

    I tried some swipey keyboard on my Nexus 7 and it was far too energetic because of the screen size.

    For two handed typing on larger screens, I can't recommend Hacker Keyboard enough, especially when using the tablet for RDP as the keyboard layout is the same as a standard keyboard and very quick to type on.

  28. thesykes

    Re: Nexus 7

    Strange... downloaded, installed & running on my Nexus 7 on 4.2.2

    In fact, 4 different versions are available through the Play Store on the Nexus, phone & tablet versions of trial and full apps.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Nexus 7

    If you check their twitter feed, there were issues earlier today with some devices. I think they are fixed now, but check twitter, they keep you informed.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It is very good.

    But I wish there was a toggle on the keyboard to temporarily turn it into a dumb keyboard because it can be a little stubborn at times when trying to mix an unknown word with punctuation.

  31. Alan Edwards
    Thumb Up

    Re: It is very good.

    Give TouchPal a go, there's a prediction on/off switch on the space bar, just swipe left or right on it.

    I tried Curve (TouchPal's equivalent of Flow), couldn't get into it...

  32. censored

    Re: It is very good.

    Switching to plain old tapping doesn't seem to be an issue for me.

  33. Silverburn


    My conversations must be very strange - it never anticipates anything like what I wanted to say.

    Then again, this might explain why I never get invited to parties...

    What - time for me to leave already? Ok...

  34. h3

    Re: Hmmm

    I doubt your conversations are particularly strange. More likely they just have some substance. Apps like this (With only 3 options regardless of width unless that has changed) are good for people who say lots with no content whatsoever.

  35. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Re: Hmmm


  36. Da Weezil
    Thumb Up

    i said a while ago they needed to combine swype with this to have a great app... seems that they heard me :) the predictive side of this is just great... I hope the flow-type works as well. time to upgrade my app and swap over the default from swype and give it a try

  37. Lord Voldemortgage

    I would have been with you on that but for me this still needs some work - unlike Swype or FlexT9 it's not very good on words with doubled letters or where swiping through letters gives an alternative word - it's always gives me "point" when I mean "pint" making it almost completely useless for the normal sort of messages I send.

    Things have been improving through the betas though so it is well worth trying the final version to see how you get on.

  38. censored

    Should learn that you use pint a lot more than point, though?

  39. C 18
    Thumb Up

    I love when things I think we really ought to have invented become available.

    I remember when I first laid hands on a Nokia 3210, back in '99, and as was the fashion those days, took it apart (only by prizing off the plastic covers and removing the battery) to see what was inside.

    My immediate reaction then was to think that at that point the size of the phone was now dictated purely by the need to have a reasonably sized keyboard and display for the user. Whereas prior to that the majority of phones would have had their dimensions dictated by the amount of space necessary to fit everything inside and the humongous battery.

    Nearly a decade and a half later and we still build phones that are based on the idea that we need a full keyboard to enter text with one, two if you're less patient, thumbs. Guys like these will change that, maybe not these particular fellows. Some sort of natural language processing combined with predictive algorithms should make it possible to speed up the input rates possible by use of a single or small number of digits.

    Combined with some sort of discreet projection device to display images directly on to the retina and soon the bricks that we carry about in our pockets will become practically invisible to others.

    As for the input device itself; transparent, conductive surfaces on the fingers, easily applied, connected to a base station wristband or whatever seems appropriate.

    Hmm, must return to the present moment now...


  40. Christoph Silver badge

    They should use the Microwriter chorded keyboard.

  41. Dave 126 Silver badge

    >They should use the Microwriter chorded keyboard.

    This lad has already made a prototype chorded typing case for a mobile phone. Well done him!

  42. Keith 20

    invent a wheel (or something)

    There was an accessibility keyboard feature ages back for linux, where you kind of flew through to the next most likely letter.

    Based on this a wheel, which predicts likely next letters (and so words) could be made to be smaller than a keyboard gui and get rid of the size restriction ....tiny small round phones anyone ?!

  43. C 18
    Black Helicopters

    In response to my own post

    Google are watching...

  44. CompuGuide

    WTF?! "This App is not compatible with Nexus 7

    I've been using Swiftkey 3 Tablet for ages on my Nexus 7. Now it seems that it's no longer available in the Play store for this tablet?

    What Gives?

  45. MikeyD85

    Re: WTF?! "This App is not compatible with Nexus 7

    Just updated to 4.2.2 by chance?

    The only problem with Nexus devices is that having the latest version of Android often breaks your apps.

  46. Timmay

    Re: WTF?! "This App is not compatible with Nexus 7

    Same here - I suspect (hope) it's some kind of oversight, and I'm sure it'll be asking to upgrade soon enough.

  47. ContentsMayVary

    Re: WTF?! "This App is not compatible with Nexus 7

    WTF indeed! And you can't post a review stating "Won't work on Nexus 7" unless you've actually installed it... While I can see the reasoning behind that limitation on reviewing uninstallable software, it's a bit annoying.

  48. Afflicted.John

    Re: WTF?! "This App is not compatible with Nexus 7

    Swiftkey do have a habit of changing device compatibility. The original Galaxy Note would work with SwiftKey tablet for example, but following a SwiftKey 3 update the split keyboard would not work and I had to resort to using the common phone variety. Try the other version to see.

  49. Jon Green

    Re: WTF?! "This App is not compatible with Nexus 7

    Very disappointing - I just looked on the Play Store, looking to update my SK3, and found the same thing. It's not like 4.2.2 happened suddenly, without warning. I don't know how TouchType could have missed this. They're now not on the radar for any N7 user with the latest firmware; that's a decent chunk of market gone.

    Still, SK3 still seems to work, for those of us who already have it.

    Icon: "You owe me a new keyboard." Soon would be nice.

  50. Thecowking

    Love Swiftkey

    It was the very first app I ever bought on Android and I use it every day.

    It's extremely good, though mildly prudish and after two years or so of using it, I can't go back.

    Just installed the upgrade and it's uncanny.

    I'll stop gushing now.


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