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The best Android keyboard just went free

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Apple will finally let you choose your own iPhone keyboard this fall, but Android phones have had this perk for ages. If you haven't tried anything other than your pre-loaded layout, you now have extra incentive to experiment. SwiftKey, which has been among the top 5 paid apps for a while and used to cost $3.99, is free starting today. 

Along with ditching its price, SwiftKey's latest update also brings new free and premium (paid) themes so you can customize the look of your keyboard to your heart's desire. If you're already a paid SwiftKey user, the makers are rewarding you with a pack of 10 premium themes. 

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The 26.07MB update took several seconds to download and install, and comes with 15 layouts already built in. Going into the Theme Store reveals 33 more designs ranging from colorful and flat (a la iOS 7) to generic and pop-up. 

Since we had previously selected SwiftKey as our default input method, the keyboard appeared across our device in apps such as Messaging, Email and Chrome. We selected the Satin Purple theme and loved its flat iOS 7 look and gorgeous hue. Even more pleasing was the ability to split the keyboard in half and dock it to each side of the screen. This was really handy on our Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014)'s relatively large screen. 

You also get the option of having a persistent number row so you don't have to keep switching back and forth to input digits. SwiftKey says its word prediction engine has also been enhanced to deliver better autocorrect and more accurate gesture typing. During our testing, we found the system largely accurate, with SwiftKey automatically and correctly changing gibberish like "thkjg" and "hkrrendkjd" to "thing" and "horrendous" respectively. 

Our one main gripe with SwiftKey is that the keyboard got in the way when it was in Thumb (or split) mode, blocking our view of our message. We could move the decks around when we undocked them, but they were still in the way. 

That small complaint aside, SwiftKey is an excellent alternative to your stock Android keyboard that is worthy of downloading. You can't go wrong with free.