If you’ve listened to this week’s COLLECTOR’S EDITION 50th EPISODE OF POP TECH JAM (shame on you if you haven’t) you know all about my travails attempting to root a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone. I don’t want to spoil things for anyone so let’s just say it did not go well.
One of the main reasons for my attempted rooting was to allow installation of awesome new applications from small, nimble developers that are passionate about what they do. I looked forward to loading bar-raising apps that would extend the functionality of Samsung’s well regarded new flagship phone far beyond what its bloatware ladened factory image would allow. Ironically, the app that has most dramatically improved the phone’s functionality and usability is as far from revolutionary as you can get and was developed by a huge corporate behemoth. Oh, and it doesn’t need superuser permissions.
Google Keyboard, free from Google’s app market Play, is the same stock Android keyboard found on the Nexus series of tablets and phones and on plain vanilla installs of Android made available as a standalone application. While the Galaxy S4 is an exceptional smartphone, its most glaring weakness, beyond the many useless apps it crams onto the phone, is the keyboard. The Samsung keyboard is inaccurate, offers up terrible predictions and is pretty much useless for anyone who has large fingers.
In contrast, the free Google keyboard app is accurate, has a voice dictation option and a gesture typing feature that lets you slide your finger across the keyboard without lifting it from the screen to enter a word. The Swype app from Nuance does a much better job at this sort of modified “keying” but Google’s version is very effective. I would rate it above Swiftkey’s Flow for accuracy but below Swype.
If you find the Samsung Touchwiz or the HTC Sense keyboards difficult to use or just too inaccurate to trust try Google Keyboard before shelling out cash for a replacement app. While the other apps may offer more fancy features the Google app does yeoman’s work. And did I mention it’s free? We LOVE free around here…