Analysis & Opinion

SwiftKey and the keyboard of the future

Joe Braidwood CMO SwiftKey

Joe Braidwood

Imagine if everyone’s mobile keyboard was an app; if every time you sent a text or email, or wrote a tweet, or posted on Facebook, or searched Google (and so on and so on and so on), you were using… an app.

If this was the case, your keyboard would not merely be one app among many, it would be the app.

Enter SwiftKey – a super-intuitive, bilingual, predictive, multimedia touch keyboard. A keyboard on steroids.

You may well know of it already: while it has spent little to no money on ads, SwiftKey was the best-selling app on Android for two years, and the technology is already present in one form or another on 250 million devices – mostly through partnerships with likes of Samsung. More recently, however, it has not only launched on iOS for the first time: it has gone free.

“We’ve been building the world’s most comprehensive language intelligence engines,” says Joe Braidwood, SwiftKey’s (suitably eloquent) CMO, and a keynote at the upcoming Apps World North America. “It just so happens that we’ve put it together in a nifty little keyboard. And it is such a complex problem, because the depth of expression that is possible with language is essentially infinite, and we support over eighty languages.”

Despite being a firm favourite among texting polyglots (“less intellectual, less robustly capable text prediction really screws up two languages”), Braidwood insists Swfitkey is not limiting its sights to any intellectual elite. Instead, the emphasis is on better facilitating everyone’s communication.

“It’s our job as an expression company to allow our users to express themselves not just through words but also through emojis, through symbolism of other forms and through other visual aids. I think the advent of Instagram and Snapchat as the social networks of the current youth generation are showing us that there are visual languages being applied as readily as written ones.”

Braidwood is confident that, with seven years of research behind it, and 65 engineers in London alone dedicated to the technology, SwiftKey can stay light years ahead of the competition. Couple this conviction with the realisation of just how much passionate usage is made out of the tool they are dedicated to refining and the opportunities are conceivably staggering.

Again – imagine if everyone’s keyboard was an app.

“What we’ve said very clearly is we’re never going to put banner ads or any display in the keyboard. But if you can understand the user’s language and you can understand how they express themselves, there are opportunities to build really high context personalised prediction experiences that go beyond just text prediction.”

After all, the development of SwiftKey’s technology is profoundly intertwined with the evolution of AI. “AI is entitling and enabling the next generation of technology adopters to be far, far more productive. It means we’re going to be better at organising information: it means we’re going to be better at anticipating needs. Over the next couple of years that’s only going to get more accurate, more intuitive.”

Think about it: all of that super-sophisticated AI can cut both ways.

“Whether it’s trying to predict what restaurant you want to eat at, or trying to predict what you want to search for, there are so many opportunities there to build value, and to build value in way that isn’t just delightful but is also monetisable.”

Do not miss Joe Braidwood at Apps World North America (May 12-13, Moscone Center West, San Francisco): ‘Getting to number one on both Android and iOS’ 

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