Swype takes SwiftKey head on, debuting on Google Play

Swype and SwiftKey have long competed for Android users’ attention, each proffering their own version of an intelligent touchscreen keyboards. But SwiftKey has always had a big advantage: easy availability. Anyone can go to Google Play and download the SwiftKey software onto their Android smartphones or tablets.

Swype’s maker Nuance Communications(s nuan) has traditionally distributed its smart keyboard through handset makers, though it has made new releases of the software available to anyone through a registered beta program. But Nuance has decided to change up its distribution model, likely to expand its presence beyond the Motorola(s goog), Samsung and HTC handsets on which it ships. On Wednesday Nuance will begin offering Swype in Google Play.

Like SwiftKey, Swype will be a paid app, but Nuance is selling its keyboard for $1 — at least for the time being — while SwiftKey charges $4. And, as with SwiftKey, you can download a free version of the fully functioning Swype keyboard for a month trial period.

My colleague Kevin Tofel is a big fan of SwiftKey and its predictive text algorithms and recommends it over all other third-party keyboards (and there are numerous keyboards). Myself, I’ve always used Swype, at first because the Android handsets I’ve owned came with the smart keyboard pre-installed, but I later got hooked, installing new beta versions as they became available.

Regardless of which keyboard offers the superior experience, there are likely many smartphone users like me who cut their teeth on Android using a smartphone preloaded with Swype. They might welcome the Nuance software on their newer Android handsets – especially if it can be gotten for a quarter of SwiftKey’s price.