Syntellia have opened up a Beta for their Fleksy keyboard on Android, so I thought I would give it a try. Signing up for the Getting started is very simple, just join their community on Google+ and you can sign up for the beta which then provides a link to the Play Store where it can be downloaded. I have been using this keyboard for about a week and in that time there has been one update which was pretty significant, so kudos to Fleksy for that.
Syntellia describe their keyboard as one with "An auto correction engine that actually works". If you have tried many of the available keyboards, you may well feel that your current favourite also works. I am a particular fan of SwiftKey and find that it certainly has an auto correction engine that works, so I will be comparing it to Fleksy extensively here.
The design of Fleksy is very minimalistic and I applaud that. It looks good on the screen. With the latest version, the keyboard is now available in three different sizes and I have been using the middle size. The keyboard can be displayed in various modes which are shown above. The first is pretty standard for a keyboard although no secondary symbols are visible. The second mode is similar, but the bottom row has disappeared and only the letters are visible. In the third, it appears there is no keyboard at all, but actually Fleksy has gone transparent and sits on top of the area accepting the keyboard's input. You then type by tapping where the keys would have been in the second of these modes! Changing between modes is achieved with a simple two finger vertical swipe. Ultimately though, the keyboard operates similarly in all three modes.
When in its largest layout, tapping the keyboard symbol on the bottom row takes you to the symbol entry screens that you can see below. Entering symbols from the normal keyboard can also be done by simply long pressing on any letter which shows all the symbols available on that row of letter and you slide your finger to the one you want and let go. It works well.
Fleksy is all about a mix of tapping and swiping. You start by entering text normally, but to complete a word, you either tap the space bar or swipe to the right. So even when using the keyboard without a space bar visible, completing a word involves a swipe from left to right across the keyboard, and it enters a space for you. Fleksy will then auto correct the word you entered to what it thinks is the best match. The matches appear above the keyboard as shown in the first screenshot above with the highlighted word being the one that Fleksy has chosen as its match. To the left is what you actually typed. If you disagree, you swipe up to move left or down to move right which changes the selected word. It takes some getting used to, but it does work. If you want to enter punctuation, you do another swipe to the right which enters the period symbol and then swipe up and down to change it.
One of the neat features of Fleksy is to be found during rapid text entry. The word being corrected with the vertical swiping is always the last matched word. This means you can be half way through typing the next word and still correct the previous word. It is actually very useful and intuitive in my experience.
Deleting characters and words happens with a swipe from right to left across the keyboard. If you are part way through entering a word, the swipe deletes a letter otherwise, a whole word is deleted. There is a delete key on the keyboard's bottom row if you choose to have it displayed, which always deletes one character at a time.
So what's it like in practice? It has taken me most of a week to get comfortable using Fleksy, but it is a quick and effective way of entering text. I still think SwiftKey is slightly better as it handles two specific errors very well. Firstly, if you forget to enter a space, SwiftKey can often work out you meant to type two separate words and actually enter both of the words correctly as well as inserting the space. Secondly, SwiftKey is excellent at dealing with partial word entry, especially when the wrong number of taps are registered for a word. Somehow SwiftKey can handle that where Fleksy needs the correct number of taps for any word. But if you look beyond those two specific examples, the prediction engine in Fleksy is super accurate and it is very easy to change which auto correction is selected or choose what you originally typed. My word per minute count is still higher with SwiftKey, but the accuracy of the engine is greater with Fleksy. Ultimately, it is a toss up as to which is better for me.
Fleksy has one very unique feature that I think might work for people with limited sight or for typing when you cannot see your phone. It can provide voice feedback as to what letters, symbols and words it has entered and tells you which alternative matches you are moving between when performing a vertical swipe. Although I have no need for this feedback, it is fast and not as intrusive as it might sound. It was quite fun playing with the voice feedback too but I leave it switched off most of the time.
Despite being beta quality software, Syntellia have done a great job in making Fleksy fast and stable. I have had no crashes and no unexpected behaviours at all on any of the three devices I have been using. The update from last week was quite significant and the only thing missing is the option to make the typing sounds louder. There is even very basic theme support with Syntellia providing a vanilla theme which is essentially a light theme. I prefer the default dark theme but it is still nice to see these enhancements coming.
Overall, I am impressed with this keyboard and will keep on using it. I don't enjoy using it in its transparent mode or without the bottom bar visible - getting used to swiping right for a space instead of tapping the space bar is a step too far for me. But this is an excellent option and well worth trying out.
Give it a go and let us know how you get on!