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Microsoft's SwiftKey keyboard for Android is a sorry mess

Swifkey carbon theme
Swifkey carbon theme (Image credit: Windows Central)

I was a Windows phone user for years before I finally made the switch to an Android smartphone. I had used everything from the HTC 7 Mozart all the way up to the HP Elite x3 as my daily driver. Back in 2010, when I made the switch from my iPhone 3GS to my HTC 7 Mozart, the keyboard was an obvious standout feature. It was so good.

Windows Phone 8.1 only improved the keyboard with the introduction of shape writing and better autocorrect, and although the Windows 10 Mobile keyboard was a little sub-par when it first launched, it didn't take long for that old behavior to return, maintaining Windows Phone's number one spot for best mobile OS keyboard.

But in 2017, that doesn't matter. But Microsoft made great keyboards, so I would at least expect it to have nailed the fundamentals on Android. It already has a great app launcher, superb Edge browser, Cortana, Outlook, and many more fantastic Android apps to help tie over any Windows phone converts. SwiftKey? Not so much ...

The SwiftKey experience

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SwiftKey (opens in new tab) is Microsoft's official Android keyboard. There are just so many things I don't like about SwiftKey on Android, including its slow, laggy performance that often drops below 30 frames per second (FPS) when scrolling through the keyboards settings. Keep in mind, all my experiences I write about here are on a OnePlus 5T and Samsung Galaxy S8, two of the most powerful Android flagships from 2017. Of course, my issues and opinions on this keyboard may differ from yours. These are my personal experiences.

Let's start with the typing experience, which sucks. Using the shape-writing function feels slow; the shape writing line animation is often laggy, and the keyboard is terrible at keeping up pace with key-popups. Key-popups are another thing that is disabled by default. Every other keyboard I've tried on Android can display key-popups at pace, no matter how fast I type. I find key-popups to be an integral part of all virtual keyboards, as it gives you visual feedback that you've hit the button you were aiming for. If the popups aren't able to keep up, it throws me off my typing pattern, and makes for a terrible user experience.

The actual appearance of the SwiftKey keyboard looks like something out of 2008. Sure, SwiftKey supports themes, and "some" of the themes available look OK. But the default themes are anything but. A lot of them look dated, from back when it was trendy for Android keyboard to look like crap. The keyboard supports custom themes, but I wouldn't call that anything special considering the "custom" element is just changing the keyboard's background. There's no color configuration options, just the background. Other keyboards have way better custom theming support.

There are much better Android keyboards available

I've also noticed that the "stats" feature in the SwiftKey app never works. No matter what device I try it on. This is apparent on stable and beta releases of SwiftKey.

I've tried plenty of Android keyboards since I made the switch from Windows Phone, looking for one that can at least pretend to compete with the mighty Windows Phone keyboard. I've tried everything from Google's keyboard to Flesky (opens in new tab), and I finally found my Windows Phone keyboard replacement. I present to you ... the BlackBerry keyboard. (opens in new tab)

This isn't a keyboard you're supposed to be able to install on non-BlackBerry devices, but you can bypass that block if you want to with an app called BlackBerry Manager. The BlackBerry keyboard is hands-down, the best virtual keyboard I've ever used on any platform. It's simple, fast, with great auto-correct and shape writing, and it even has CTRL shortcuts for copy and paste.

The BlackBerry keyboard gets the fundamentals right, and that's incredibly important. I never tap into a text field and have to wait for half a second for the keyboard to pop up as I did with SwiftKey. I'm able to use keyboard shortcuts I'm familiar with on my PC on my phone thanks to the addition of CRTL shortcut support on the BlackBerry keyboard. How is this not a part of Microsoft's keyboard offering on Android?

Microsoft, it's time to turn SwiftKey into a flagship keyboard experience on Android. You have the resources to make a keyboard better than BlackBerry's. Take the excellent Windows Phone keyboard experience, add things such as CTRL shortcut support, more configurable options, merge it with SwiftKey, give SwiftKey a new, modern look, and maybe even give SwiftKey a rebrand. It's time to start taking your Android keyboard seriously because right now it's a joke.

I'm not bashing SwiftKey for the hell of it. I'm a huge fan of Microsoft's current Android efforts, and I really want the Microsoft Android experience to be good. I want SwiftKey to be good. In fact, I want SwiftKey to be the best keyboard on Android, it just needs work before it can attain that status. And sure, maybe SwiftKey is good enough for you, and if so then that's great, but there definitely are better keyboards on Android, and there shouldn't be. SwiftKey should be the best keyboard out there.

Now don't get me wrong, SwiftKey was once the best you could find on Android, but it isn't anymore. I agree, it was once ahead of its time, but so many other keyboards have surpassed it in quality and performance since then. SwiftKey is falling behind, and Microsoft has a lot of catching up to do because of it. Those who use SwiftKey and claim it to be the best on Android likely haven't tried the Google or BlackBerry keyboards. They are really, very good. SwiftKey could learn a thing or two from them.

See at Google Play Store (opens in new tab)

Updated December 7: Added additional device info and a video.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

215 Comments
  • I never notice any problems with SwiftKey, I switched from the Samsung keyboard a while back
  • holy cow, the opposite here... I switched from the Samsung keyboard on my S8 but it was a horrible experience (Dutch & English installed). The swipe-keyboard was one of the things I really miss from W10M. Couple of days ago I switched to GBoard (the Google one) and so far that's far better than SwiftKey...
  • I also put SwiftKey on my S8+ and it lags often enough that I need to go back. Side note, I also installed Next lock and it doesn't fill up the screen or disable the regular lock, so now I have to unlock twice. Stupid stuff that shouldn't be happening. If MS really wants to compete on Android they need to make a single app, download and click experience, to Microsoftify your phone.
  • It's not really lag but the words suggested really didn't make any sense... Mixing the 2 languages and what not...
  • It does lag, not all the time, but I've noticed at least three times where it hangs up and stops letting me type for a couple seconds, then pops up a bunch of stuff I previously pressed/swiped
  • Yeah, it definitely lags. Too much for me to consider as a daily driver.
  • No lags at all on a HTC U11 using it with three languages. The Google Keyboard is much slower
  • No lag using it on my Note 8 at all.
  • I've three languages installed, but the thing I hate most is autocorrect; if you don't want the correction and change it back, autocorrect changes it again. If it corrects you wrongly, you have to type on and sneak back to correct it.
  • Four langages, all works well exceptioneel for the issue you brought  forward. There still ain't nö good one..... Gboard is even worse... 
  • go to settings and turn off any kind of authentication on the stock lockscreen, then you can select next as the only one. 
  • Lol you have to disable your current lock screen if you install a third party one, this Is vey very basic stuff. So no Microsoft have nothing to do in that regard.
  • Seeing as the default lock screen isn't an "app" that you can just uninstall, MS should have a solution to disable the current one when you install theirs. WP was great because it was simple, yet customizable and powerful. It was easy like an iPhone but could do a lot more. Android can do a lot but is very complicated and confusing. I don't want to hunt and peck for weird settings and while you may be more techie than I, I am still more techie than 80% of average users. Therefore if MS wants to be on people's phones it should be as simple as a 1 app install, maybe with a couple dialog options during install, but that's it. a "1-step" Microsoft-ification 
  • Hey Hans, I also use Swiftkey but mainly because it's bilingual (also have Dutch and English installed). Is Gboard also bilingual? And how is this better than Swiftkey in your opinion? Thanks in advance man for the info!
  • Yes, GBoard supports two languages. And cool swipe gestures for cursor movements (space) and deleting. Also, it better cooperates with spell checker.
  • Same here
  • Look. Android just looks like outdated crap from 2008 compared to WP/WM.....
    ........
    It's the sadest part for WP fans to have to switch to.
  • Agreed, I really hate having to use a phone i don't like again. I was notorius for hating every phone I've ever had after the "honeymoon" period wore off, then Windows Phone came on the scene and I was smitten for years. Now I'm back to using crap just because it was marketed better and became more ubiquitous. I would go back to my 640 if the camera were as good as my S8+ and the apps were more stable, but Spotify crashing all the time coupled with app after app disappearing from the store all-the-while expected updates like "night light" being left out forced the switch.
  • Yepers. Exactly.
  • On most of Samsung's flagship phones, Swiftkey is the default (pre-loaded) keyboard. Switching doesn't do anything since it's the same app. One is just placed on the user partition and one is placed on the system partition.
  • I am confused I do not see any lag, how weird....
  • It depends on the theme you choose. When I changed to a minimalist one it just stopped lagging. It actually works great.
  • Exactly... I notice HUGE difference in performance with the newest set of stock themes they delivered (Light, Dark, and High Contrast).  For the longest time, I couldn't figure out what the heck the source of lag was on my old S7 Edge.  When I reverted back to the stock Samsung keyboard or GBoard, the maddening lag mostly went away.  (Granted, that phone was never a speed demon anyway, especially post-7.0 update).  I don't notice any lag using these themes on my Note 8. 
  • Mine is basically no borders, black with white font.
  • Yeah I keep seeing this from Windows Central on Twitter and here. Kinda blew it off at first but finally came to read the article. I have not had any issues with this app and it has been my go to on Android for a very long time. I wanted them to even bring it to Windows 10 mobile and the touch keyboard on Surface.
  • Works quite well for me... Far better than my W10 mobile's keyboard ever did.
  • Works great for me too on xperia xz premium. Never see lag or anything. Maybe it's his device. Lots of themes to choose from as well. I found one that looks amazing. Great reviews in the app store too. Zac needs to contact his IT department and open a support ticket lol.
  • Same for me... This seems more like a "here's some money, please bash our competitor's keyboard. kthxbi" article than an actual review..
  • He's one a Windows blog bashing the Microsoft option and suggesting a non-commercial product we're not even supposed to have access to. Definitely not bashing a competitor to promote another product.
  • Sure, if every other keyboard ever gave us money to promote their keyboard. Seriously, every other keyboard on Android is better than the SwiftKey one. Use GBoard, use Flesky, use BlackBerry, use literally anything else. Seriously though, would make no sense for BlackBerry to pay us to promote a keyboard that doesn't officially run on non-blackberry devices. Think a little before you comment. A lot of other people in this very comments section agree that SwiftKey is not good. This is not some agenda driven bash piece. I just want Microsoft to make SwiftKey the best on Android, because right now it isn't.
  • No, GBoard is an utter mess. It's predictive typing is virtually non-existent, the spell-check and suggestions are awful. It can't recognize the most obvious fixes and suggests nonsense words. It keeps getting words wrong, ALL THE DAMN TIME. It's the worse keyboard and spell check I've ever used. In fact, people recommended Swift Key to me and it works great: https://www.reddit.com/r/AndroidQuestions/comments/7c1fe8/why_is_the_dic...   The predictive typing is amazing. You almost never need to look at the keyboard to see that you're keys are entered correctly because the prediction is so good.   My only problems with Swift Key are cosmetic: The keyboard doesn't look as sleek as Gboard, I would prefer if the letters were bigger, and the keyboard button on the bottom right can't be removed. The menu is a bit laggy, but the keyboard itself is not. Functionally, it's the best keyboard.
  • I would have said, other people agree and disagree in the comments, I'm seeing many like me that are not seeing lag when using. I have used it for many yrs over several different devices and have yet to have an issue. Currently using Samsung Note 8. I feel this is more of a preference thing then a "SwiftKey keyboard is a mess" thing.
  • Honestly, Zac, this article seems to be exaggerating a bit too much. SwiftKey is definitely not a piece of crap, although I agree that it's sub-par compared to W10M or GBoard.
  • Swiftkey is garbage on iOS too. So disappointing...
  • Every third-party keyboard is garbage on iOS by design (of iOS that is). I am not sure why people even bother to make third party keyboards for iOS.
  • The WordFlow keyboard Microsoft garage project was a great keyboard for iOS. Microsoft decided to abandon that in favor of the absolute shitshow that is SwiftKey. (Pardon my French)
  • You have to go very slow for SwiftKey to get the word right or it makes up some amazingly comical corrections on  iOS.
  • It does not save the size I selected. But there are constant updates.... Fixing what?
  • Version number 😅
  • I love it, no lags at all. Have you tried it out on several phones? You probably just had bad luck with your phone... 
  • I havent seen lag on swiftkey on note8, but flow typing is horrible, even regulr typing is inaccurate, I was sticking to it as it does look like W10M keyboard. will try out blackberry keyboard, or else the stock  samsung keyboards are not bad either  
  • Same here on Note 8 typing accuracy is a bit off.. I tried sticking with Swift but keep going back to the Samsung keyboard because it's less laggy. Predictions are a bit worse.
    Man, I really miss WM10. Miss the ".com" key.
  • nothing beats gboards
  • Everything beats g board.
  • SwiftKey used to be my favorite Android keyboard, but you're absolutely right. It doesn't work well at all now a days. It's a shame
  • That is my experience. Often, the autocorrect suggestions are not even close until 1 or 2 letters areeft in the word.
  • Same here. SwiftKey used to be my favourite. It was on par with Windows 8.1 keyboard. Nowadays I just use Gboards. Less frustrating.
  • I'm not a fan of the swiftkey either...I just use GBoard (google's keyboard). better experience for me because all the key placement makes sense. 
  • I use swiftkey and I have no problems on my s8
  • Yeah, no. Swiftkey is amongst the best keyboards on Android. You're just clumbsy, Zac. I've been using it since 2014 and I haven't encountered a single of those problems you mentioned. Now, I will admit, however, that the keyboard has had better days. In fact...it just started to get left behind other keyboards (like Google's horrible GKeyboard) when Microsoft took over. But that's not really a surprise now, is it? Microsoft has had this tendency to buy Android apps and ruin them.
  • I've used many keyboard and can wholeheartedly say SwiftKey is the worst of the bunch. Has nothing to do with being clumsy. It's just a bad keyboard.
  • I tried a lot of keyboard and so far is the best. It's not perfect sometimes it suggest words in the wrong case but for me with writing English and German mixed it's the best available.
  • But does the Blackberry keyboard have an option to not only insert GIFs, but search on specific GIFs, then insert them?  I've tried Cheetah, Samsung, Google, Swiftkey, and Kika.  Swiftkey is the best option I have found so far in regards to customization and inserting media/text/symbols/emoji's.
  • It runs just as well for me as it did before MS bought it.  I prefer it over stock Android for sure, though I haven't used anything else in quite a while.  I'll check out some others, but Swiftkey has been pretty good for me.  I certainly prefer it over W10M keyboard, though I miss the little red dot for cursor control.  Swiftkey offers arrows, but they take up too much room.
  • Yeah, that dot is great. Too bad they don't implement it.
  • Zac keeping microsoft on their toes, for an even better end user virtual keyboard experience. Thank you.
  • I wish he could've kept them on thier WP toes...
  • I don't have any issues with my swiftkey keyboard, and i can't install the blackberry keyboard to test it on any of my devices for some reason.
  • Well it's one of the most popular keyboards out there and has a very high rating so I think your experience is an anomaly. It shouldn't lag like that I'm sorry you had to put up with that. You should use Fleksy keyboard. You said you tried it but like you should try to live with it for a week. It's such a good keyboard that there's an invisible mode in which the keyboard can become transparent so you can see behind the keyboard and it works so well you barely make mistakes. Even blind people use it.
  • It is possible that stats does not work for you if you are not logged into SwiftKey account? I have been used SwiftKey since it was paid app and never had a single problem with stats...
  • Wow you got this one way off. SwiftKey in Android is far and away the best keyboard there is. Not so great on iPhone but it's way better than the sorry stock keyboard
  • So exactly how do I get blackberry keyboard with the manager?
  • Same for me. It shows that I can't install it on my G5.
  • Maybe author should mention which phone he is using? I just switched from 950xl to Razer Phone, and I feel the Switftkey is much more responsive than W10M keyboard. However, I agree that swiftkey has something I don't like, e.g., the lack of the direction dot key, the "oops, something went wrong", and the fact that the voice input actually uses Google voice keyboard.
  • OP5T with 8GB RAM and a Galaxy S8. So, two very powerful 2017 smartphones. Both lag with SwiftKey.
  • I'm using the S8 as well since March (After finally leaving my 950 behind...), have been using SwiftKey with 2 languages ever since, no problems at all. The only problem is that it doesn't recognize the language you're typing, so it will propose both Dutch and English words. I was very surprised to read this.
  • I thought SwiftKey was the best, that is why Microsoft bought it?  Did it go down hill since then?  I am still using my Icon.  Thinking of going Pixel2.  Verizon currently selling it for $349.
  • I really like SwiftKey, especially how you can type symbols without having to switch keyboards. Just hold down the u key, for example, for a split second (configurable) for the < symbol. Also like how you can setup multiple languages and it will auto-suggest words for all of them, regardless whether you are mixing in English, Spanish, and French in your texts. I do that a lot, texting in different languages to friends, so that is important to me.
  • This is what's actually annoying the crap out of me: it makes a horrible mess of mixing languages when you have multiple configured... I totally don't get why you can't set them manually so you can stick to one language and get autocorrect in the language you need at that moment. It's especially bad in sticking to dutch when I even use just one word english in it. Why not swipe the spacebar to switch, like on Windows Phone? "Oh no let's see, we have to put our logo somewhere..." I agree with Zac... Swiftkey has gone downhill since it's been acquired by Microsoft 😒 And then ther's the lag too
  • SwiftKey works great for me and is configurable & resizable. Too much whining in the article TBH.
  • Been using SwiftKey since switching to Android on Edge S7 Edge and now on Note 8 and all so far going rather well, slight lag compared to Samsung's own keyboard however nothing serious, can't see myself changing from it. However must say that the Windows 10 Mobile keyboard was very good out of everything used so far though this could be down to how little it did compared to SwiftKey also so did the whole Windows Mobile platform compared to Android which may have contributed to it. Seeing how many people are switching to Android is likely that we start to see much more and regular improvements/updates for Android based apps, just shame that some simple things from Microsoft such as below are still behind: Outlook - No new email count option on icon/badge
    Skype - Slow and still no SMS integration
    Cortana - Not as good as running on Windows 10 Mobile, they can do it but just haven't yet, you need to double confirm everything which contradicts the whole idea of an assistance
  • Skype lite is a beta intended for India, but I like the interface much better personally. It does have SMS integration, and you can set it as your default messaging app. I have only toyed with the messaging aspect though, so not sure how well it works overall.
  • SwiftKey is the best by many standards...
  • This "article" is bad and you should feel bad for writing it.
  • Why? Plenty of people in this very comments section agree with the issues I talk about. SwiftKey is not a good keyboard.
  • Wow, I've never seen a hit piece on a keyboard before. It doesn't seem like a bad keyboard at all to me.  For some reason that I haven't actually identified, I seem to be more accurate with a different keyboard but my experience with Swiftkey certainly wasn't the dumpster fire you make it sound like.  I thought it performed fairly well, actually.
  • Key popup when you have actual feedback on input field 🤣
  • This made me laugh too. Buddy is delusional.
  • What? All other keyboards utilise key popups, including the iOS keyboard. SwiftKey not doing it is poor. In fact, it does do it, but because it's so poorly optimized it can't keep up with my typing. It's a joke.
  • Other than the stats connection error message, I have had zero problems with it.
  • Under Nadulla, everything awesome about MS going downhill, except Xbox (because of good leadership in that division). Wordflow was way better! What dies Nadulla do trashed it. Let's see what this trash will trash next. Surface?
  • Actually that is the only thing that has gotten better sans cloud stuff 😂
  • Most of the android keyboards have very odd background colors making it really hard to highlight the letter buttons... So I use LG keyboard which is default on my phone and gets the job done quite well
  • This is simply not true for me :0 seems like a rage post instead of an actual article and that is disappointing^^
  • So just because you don't have these issues, this piece is a rage article and isn't true? What? There are many people in this comments section who agree with the issues I write about in the post. Stop being so selfcentered.
  • Prediction and accuracy worse than wordflow!
  • I don't like swiftkey either. After hearing a lot about swiftkey when I finally siwtched to android, I made swiftkey my defualt keyboard but couldn't continue. I tried again but phew... sorry... no can do.... the dealbreaker for me is its feature(or bug depends from where you are looking at it) of merging similar script languages... who the f decided to do that.... I write transliterated hindi and a lot of Indians and Chinese people do that.... It gives suggestion for both Hindi and English while I am writing... ok not bad but it also transliterates randomly.... Sometimes  I am writing an English sentence and whoosh there you go Hindi out of nowhere.... bad keyboard. 👎👎 Gboard is way better... and I can't stress how much better.
  • In my experience, SwiftKey is still laggy and has poor word prediction. I was suprised to see that it is that way considering that Microsoft's 8.1 keyboard is amazing. I have to use Gboard, which is much faster and great when it comes to word prediction. It's interesting to me that half of the comments here are saying that Zac is wrong and half of them are in agreement with him. I guess it goes to show that keyboards and how someone likes (or dislikes) them is very subjective.
  • Yeah, I too am surprised by the split. Glad I'm not the only one seeing these issues however.
  • Why don't you take a poll to find out how everyone really feels about their experience with Swiftkey..?
  • Because no one cares 'that' much haha
  • Works perfect for me, maybe it's the phone you're using it on Zac. I really like it!
  • SwiftKey was good back in 2015, when I initially switched to Android. However, I now use Gboard. I does not lag, syncs my learned typing style across devices, and offers swipe typing, which I like.
  • But you can swipe write with SwiftKey
  • Don't think Zac is using a S8 or Note 8. Maybe he using some other device. No problems on my Note 8.
  • Using OP5T with 8GB RAM and Galaxy S8. Both have lag.
  • I like Swift key. I couldn't stand using Samsung keyboard it's so bad for typing. I had to download a whole new keyboard to make the experience better.
  • Not my experience on SWK. Sometimes it misses a word but it is infinitesimally better than trying to use the standard Samsung keyboard on my S8+, that thing is horrendous. But the WP8.1 keyboard was really the best "Swype" type keyboard...
  • You might wanna check the definition of "infinitesimally."
  • So interesting to hear the feedback from W10M converts. Our new "Microsoft Edition S8's" (LOL) are delayed by U.S. Postal Service in transit...but at least I can read these articles to list out all the first changes I need to make once I get them.
  • Sorry