SwiftKey Goes Free After Apple Reveals Its Own Predictive Keyboard

Jun 11 2014, 2:14am CDT | by

SwiftKey has just made a gutsy move. The popular Android keyboard app has dropped the $3.99 price tag that’s driven its revenue over the last few years and is going free from here on out.

It’s the kind of make-or-break decision that could help it scale up in fast-growing developing markets, and in SwiftKey’s case, also help it in going head-to-head with similar, free technology that Apple will soon offer to iPhone users.

“We’re focused not only on reaching more users with our powerful technology, but on building great content and features to engage them,” said the company’s CEO Jon Reynolds in an official statement. SwiftKey’s business model till now has been to use its paid-for Android app as a way to prove out its natural language processing (NLP) technology. This underpins SwiftKey’s ability to predict what word users will type next, with three suggested words above the keyboard.

Along with the app, SwiftKey also sells white-label technology to the likes of Samsung, which embeds SwiftKey’s algorithms in its Galaxy line of smartphones, and the BlackBerry 10 mobile OS that’s on several of the company’s recent smartphones. As a result it claims to be on more than 200 million devices worldwide.

Now on the consumer side, the four-year-old company will make money solely from enhancements to the free app — ie. premium keyboard themes.

SwiftKey is one of the best selling Android apps of all time, having spent more days at number one on Google Play than any other paid app. But it’s never managed to get on iPhones because Apple hasn’t released the relevant instruction set  that would allow third party developers like SwiftKey to sell keyboard enhancement for iPhones.

That all changed last week at Apple’s WWDC keynote , when the Cupertino-based company announced it would finally allow third-party keyboard apps on its App Store.

Then came the blow to SwiftKey. At the same time, Apple also announced a crucial improvement to the built-in keyboard on the forthcoming iOS 8 platform: Quick Type, a kind of predictive keyboard that looks almost identical to SwiftKey’s three-word predictive interface.

We understand from a source close to the company that SwiftKey did not license its technology to Apple, as it did to Samsung and BlackBerry. This means Apple went on its own to develop the NLP technology necessary for its own predictive keyboard, and that when iOS 8 comes out, SwiftKey’s technology will go head-to-head with Apple’s.

SwiftKey didn’t mention Apple in its official announcement about going free, but the timing can’t be pure coincidence. With a proprietary offering from Apple now built into iOS, SwiftKey is being forced to go the extra mile to make its product even more appealing to iPhone users, and that includes dropping the price tag. That’s something SwiftKey wouldn’t be able to do if it was still charging $4 to Android users.

To keep those Android users extra happy, SwiftKey is also releasing an update to its Android app, which we’ll likely see reflected in the iOS version that’s released alongside iOS 8. It includes 30 new keyboard “themes,” predictions on what emojis you might want to use (because who uses words anymore? ) and improvements to SwiftKey’s core prediction engine.

“This is the start of an incredibly exciting phase for us as a business,” said Reynolds.

Fortunately SwiftKey has $17.6 million in recent funding to fall back on after turning off its revenue spigot from Android.

In total the London-based business has raised $21.6 million from venture capital funds including Index Ventures and Accel Partners.

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Apple Working Towards Helping The Disabled
Apple Working Towards Helping The Disabled
New hearing aids for iDevices are coming
 
 
A Look At Apple’s Secret Keeping Machine
A Look At Apple’s Secret Keeping Machine
The famously secretive company makes silence an art form
 
 
China to produce its own 'Avatar'
Beijing, July 28 (IANS) China is preparing to produce its own 3D fantasy movie, based on romantic folklore, to make it an epic on par with the US blockbuster science-fiction movie "Avatar".
 
 
New Images Revealed iPhone 6 Motherboard
New Images Revealed the iPhone 6 Motherboard
The iPhone 6 logic board includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi module and NFC chip
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Brazilian soccer standings
Rio de Janeiro, July 28 (IANS) Following are the standings of the Brazilian Serie A championship after the latest round of matches Saturday and Sunday (tabulated under matches played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
2.5 bn smartphone users globally by 2015: US report
New York, July 28 (IANS) Nearly 2.5 billion people or 35 percent of the global population is expected to use smartphones by the end of 2015, says the latest report of US-based industry tracker Strategy Analytics. The...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Ronaldinho on his way out: Jo
Rio de Janeiro, July 28 (IANS) Ronaldinho has probably played his last match for Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro, according to the star's teammate and close friend Jo. The 34-year-old has not contacted anybody at the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
CWG: Indian paddlers lose to England in men's team semis
Glasgow, July 28 (IANS) India lost 1-3 to England in the 2014 Commonwealth Games men's team table tennis semifinal and will have to be content with playing for the bronze medal against Nigeria. The country's top...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Dolly Parton would sing own songs in biopic
Dolly Parton would perform her own songs in a movie of her life. The 'Jolene' hitmaker doesn't want an actress to have the ''pressure'' of having to match her famous vocals in a biopic, so would allow them to lip-sync...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Twin blasts in Nigeria kill five
Abuja, July 28 (IANS) At least five people were killed in two bomb blasts in Nigeria's Kano city, a mainly Christian area, Sunday afternoon, police said. The first blast occurred under a bridge in the Sabon Gari...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Australia gives $5 mn for Gaza relief
Sydney, July 28 (IANS) The Australian government is providing five million Australian dollars (4.7 million US dollars) in urgent humanitarian assistance to Gaza, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced Monday. The...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
France wants expatriates to leave Libya
Paris, July 28 (IANS) French government Sunday called on all its nationals to quit Libya, "given the deteriorating security situation" prevailing in the African country. "All our nationals are invited to get in touch...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Israel denies responsibility for UN school attack deaths
Jerusalem, July 28 (IANS) The Israeli army Sunday denied responsibility for the deaths of 16 Palestinians during Thursday's attack on a UN school in northern Gaza. "The inquiry as well as documented footage conclude...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
India lose badminton semi-final to England 3-0
Glasgow, July 28 (IANS) India lost to England 3-0 in the semi-finals of the badminton competition at the Commonwealth Games here late Sunday night. India's men's and mixed doubles teams fought well over three games,...
Read more on Sport Balla