GO Keyboard

Go keyboard

Boot up GO keyboard and you're presented with an interface that's more akin to a game than something that's used for inputting letters. It includes the "GO Market", where users can download new themes and hundreds of smiley-style emoticons, known as "Emoji". Users can add special characters and sounds to their messages, and even completely revamp their entire phones.

Underneath all these superfluous add-ons lies a solid keyboard, though, and one that's capable of supporting many languages, including Chinese handwriting. It can also switch between languages at the touch of a button, making it essential for people who switch between English and their native tongue.

It followed our keystrokes accurately, but predictive text is switched off by default - perhaps to make room for the sheer amount of tie-in apps and features GO Keyboard so eagerly promotes above the keyboard.

A nice touch is a dedicated selection screen, which uses lovely big arrow keys to make highlighting and copying text a doddle. All GO Keyboard's content seems to be completely free - for now.

Download this if... You're a texting teen

Avoid this if... You just want a keyboard

Verdict: 3/5

Thumb Keyboard

Thumb keyboard

"Ergonomics" was a big buzz word in the mid-90s, and Microsoft exploited the crippling fear of RSI by creating a keyboard that was split down the middle, making it easier to reach keys and type words. Thumb Keyboard is the Android equivalent of Microsoft's keyboard, and it similarly splits the keyboard and spacebar in two, placing the arrow keys in the centre.

The advent of large Android tablets makes this split a useful feature; no longer will you have to awkwardly reach across the device to reach the "G" key. And although the layout looks a little befuddling at first, it's surprising intuitive and fluid, especially if you're used to using your phone in landscape orientation.

It's incredibly customisable, too, boasting separate keyboard layouts for different orientations, as well as the option to switch between the two. There are also settings for specific tablets, such as 5-inch "phablets" and vast 10-inchers.

Full colour customisation, predictive text and the ability to create a custom toolbar round off a substantial and useful offering, and it's nigh-on essential if you're using a tablet device. It costs 99p whereas other keyboards are free, but that's the price you pay for "ergonomics".

Download this if... You're all thumbs

Avoid this if... You've got a tiny phone

Verdict: 4/5

8pen

8Pen

A complete oddball amongst the standard QWERTY keyboards, 8pen has reinvented the wheel by literally inventing a wheel. It works more like an old school rotary telephone than a tappy or swipey keyboard, and you must place your finger in the centre of the dial and move it outwards to select letters and words, then back to the centre to input them. It's completely different to any keyboard we've used before, and rather befuddling to begin with.

Fortunately 8pen includes a simple game - called "8pen Worldcup" - to help you get used to it. There are also a number of tutorials to aid you in retraining your brain to use it, and after a while we just about got the hang of it. The upshot of this is that 8pen reckons you'll be able to type far more quickly, but Swype still stands as the official fastest input method according to the Guinness World Records.

8pen will divide users between those who regard it as a mere novelty and those who actually find it useful, and the only way of finding out which category you're in is to download and use it.

Download this if... You want to try something fresh and unique

Avoid this if... You're happy with QWERTY

Verdict: 3/5

Get Android's latest keyboard on your device today

Screen

Android's latest update, known as 4.1 or Jelly Bean, includes a vastly upgraded keyboard. It's one of the best we've ever used, supporting predictive text and other high-end features while remaining nicely uncluttered and simple to use. It's fast and accurate, and it includes -esque word prediction.

It's not available on all devices, but if you're running Android 4.0 - Ice Cream Sandwich - it will work with it. You can find out which version of Android you're running by tapping the menu key from the homescreen, then going to "About phone" and tapping "Software information". Your version will be listed under "Android version".

Jelly Bean keyboard is a completely free download, too, but you purchase a donate version if you enjoy it.

1. Play the keyboard

step 1

Jelly Bean Keyboard is available for free on Android's Play Store. Search for "Jelly Bean Keyboard" and tap on the entry made by Johntanmi. Tap "Install" and it will download and install on your device. You won't get the usual "Open" option as it installs directly into the keyboard options of your device.

2. Ready for this Jelly

step 2

Press the home key on your Android device, then tap the menu key and choose "Settings". Scroll down to "Language & Keyboard" and check the tick box next to "Android keyboard (AOSP)". It will warn you about collecting data, but this isn't an issue as Jelly Bean Keyboard doesn't communicate with the internet.

3. Aisha... I'm vibrating

step 3

We need to set Jelly Bean Keyboard as our default keyboard, so tap "Default" and choose "English (UK)". Next, tap on the slider settings to the right of "Android keyboard (AOSP). Here you can set vibrations, sounds and other preferences. Once you've set it up as you want it tap the back key.

4. As easy as ABC

step 4

Now compose a new text or email to get the hang of Jelly Bean Keyboard - it'll pop up as soon as you start entering text. Tap some random words into the keyboard and it will automatically predict the word you're typing, with three options displayed above the keyboard.

5. So predictable

step 5

Tap one of these options to enter it. If you're typing a word that isn't in the dictionary it will be displayed in the centre box. There may be multiple suggestions so just tap the correct word to enter it into your message and then tap the word once more to save it to your dictionary, so it will be recognised next time.

6. As easy as 123

step 6

At the top of the keyboard you'll see numbers to the upper right of the letter keys. Long-hold on these keys to enter the numbers. Press and hold the "." key to see commonly-used punctuation marks and symbols. You can also tap "?123" to see more symbols and numbers. Tap "ABC" to return to the main QWERTY keyboard.

7. The great dictator

step 7

A handy feature included in Android is voice recognition, so you can dictate your texts and emails. Tap the microphone icon to the lower left of the keyboard and speak into your phone. When you've finished tap "Done". It's not perfect so it may take a couple of attempts to get it right!

8. Enter The Dragon

step 8

You've just got one of the best features on Ice Cream Sandwich on your device - well done! The more frequently you use Jelly Bean Keyboard, the better it gets at remembering words and predicting them, so try not to be lazy about saving words to the dictionary, and you will quickly have a more intuitive and natural keyboard.