Like SlideIT and Swype, TouchPal incorporates a swipe-based interface on top of the standard keyboard. This one includes a nice sparkly trail animation when you swipe, making it look more like you're casting a spell in Hogwarts than typing out words on your phone.
TouchPal's big selling point is its "Curve" predictive text, which means you don't have to swipe out long words in full for it to finish them. In theory this makes entering text faster, but in practise it led to woefully inaccurate sentences: "lets" became "let's" (annoying for grammar fiends) and "alter" became "Adler".
Better implemented is its ability to automatically detect which language you're typing in based on the installed dictionaries: it actually worked well enough for a few bilingual messages.
Another nice feature is that numbers and punctuation marks are entered by swiping up and down on the relevant keys, rather than long-pressing them, making their input faster and slicker. Even if the swiping was a let-down, and the least accurate we've seen, TouchPal's other features more than make up for this failing.
Download this if... You're a bilingual emailer
Avoid this if... You require decent accuracy
SlideIT takes its influence from Swype, by which we mean it completely copies it. The swipe-based input is basically exactly the same, interpreting your keyboard doodles into words with a fairly decent degree of accuracy.
But SlideIt does have a trick up its sleeve to set itself apart from its progenitor and competitor. Its clever - if gimmicky - feature is the ability to "draw" numbers and characters on a virtual laptop-style touchpad. It just about works, but it would be better if it was able to capture the entire alphabet with this method. This touchpad is also relegated to a tiny corner of the screen - we'd like to see it take up the entire keyboard space.
SlideIT's initial layout feels tacky and overdone, with hard-to-read "3D" keys. Fortunately there are many alternative skins available on the Play Store, but most are quite garish. We'd really like to see Thumb Keyboard's extreme and intricate levels of colour customisation here.
Although we'd recommend Swype over SlideIT, SlideIT's big advantage is that it's available on the Play Store. If you've got a device with Swype pre-installed we'd recommend that you stick with what you've got, but if you just want to give a swipe-interface a go SlideIT's worth trying.
Download this if... You want to swipe
Avoid this if... You like a nice interface
The original swipe-based keyboard is still the best. It comes pre-installed on some Samsung devices, but if you want to get it on other devices you'll have to jump through a few hoops as it's not available on the Play Store. Visit beta.swype.com on your smartphone, and follow the instructions there to sign up and download it.
Once it's installed you'll find a smooth and accurate swiping experience, which can even work out which words you're trying to input if you miss the letters by miles. It's got a host of extra features, such as handwriting recognition (which actually works) and well-hidden shortcuts. Swype will also "learn" favourite words from your emails, texts and Tweets, which means you won't struggle with unusual friends' names or interesting spelling variations.
Speech recognition is also included, but this is Swype's weakest feature and we couldn't get it to pick up our vocalisations. The caveat is that Swype's in beta, which means it may still have a few bugs, but also makes the speech recognition failing forgivable.
Download this if... You want the best swiping experience in the world
Avoid this if... You're uncertain about installing apps from outside the Play Store