Evolving the world’s ‘fastest and most private’ mobile keyboard

By Olivier Plante

Fleksy is a fun, efficient, and private content access keyboard, perhaps best known as the keyboard used to set the Guinness World Record for the fastest text message ever written.

Since mobile developers Thingthing took over in 2017, it also became known as a truly private keyboard app. Fleksy Keyboard keeps your typing patterns and user behaviour private – it’s never shared with third parties, and even our team can’t access it!

Despite these key characteristics, however, Fleksy Keyboard started its life with quite a different mission. In 2012, its original founders launched it as a simple gesture keyboard, solving the problem of how to better type on a smartphone.

There was a particular aim of assisting blind and visually impaired smartphone users – rather than using letters or symbols, Fleksy Keyboard allows for swipe gestures to insert spaces and add punctuation.

Beyond this need for speed, efficiency and ease of use, there was a need for privacy.

Revelations about the access and use of personal data – from GCHQ and NSA mass surveillance, and later, Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook data harvesting –  proved that not all digital conversations are by any means private, and that user data can be used for a variety of different means.

While smartphone users flocked to the likes of WhatsApp and Telegram – perceived safe havens for privacy, due to end-to-end encryption – it has still been possible for data snoopers and harvesters to gain access to private data via an unlikely source: mobile keyboards.

By connecting with the cloud, some mobile keyboards used for streamlining and personalising typing can access and use data from your device.

There have been several notable cases of data leaks in recent years. The personal data of over 31 million users of the AI.type virtual keyboard app leaked online in 2017 after the company failed to secure the database’s server.

The users of another different keyboard extension, Swiftkey, reported in 2016 that their keyboards were suggesting the email addresses and search phrases of other users – a bug which originated from SwiftKey’s cloud sync service, which had to be suspended.

And while being investigated for intrusive ads in 2017, GO Keyboard, a widely-used custom Android keyboard app was found to be collecting extensive user data.

GO Keyboard was also found to be running external code, and was connected to dozens of third-party trackers and ad networks, meaning that the number of affected users ranged anywhere from 200 million to 1 billion.

Even Google’s own Gboard keyboard extension gives the company another avenue to harvest its users’ search queries, regardless of whether it is used in conjunction with end-to-end encryption apps.

Fleksy Keyboard has avoided the risks of such data leaks by storing all user data securely on the user’s device and not uploading it to the cloud, where it could be leaked. In fact, due to its privacy credentials, Fleksy Keyboard has been licensed to smartphone manufacturers and governments around the world.

However, while we keep data private, we still use some pretty smart algorithms that make Fleksy Keyboard as dynamic as possible.

When Thingthing took the helm in 2017, we launched fleksyapps – “the future of mobile content access” – with a central focus on privacy.

Fleksy Keyboard users were then granted instant access to videos, songs, webpages and much more, while typing, but without having to leave their current app, and without having to compromise the privacy of their privacy.

And most recently, we developed and launched Next-Service Prediction (NSP), the innovative successor to predictive text. NSP allows Fleksy Keyboard to predict user behaviours, such as specific content located online and in other apps, all while retaining our stringent degree of privacy.

By mapping user behavior, NSP is not only able to predict the next word the user wants to type, but also the next service, or, in other words, needs. This new smart technology allows users to instantly access content and information from the web, and via different apps.

For example, offering to “grab a drink” with a friend could bring up suggestions of local bars, while suggesting a “meeting sometime next week” with a colleague could trigger your phone’s calendar.

So, Fleksy Keyboard users are always able to have a typing experience unique to them, and enjoy, speed, simplicity, all without having to worry that their data is being snooped upon, leaked, or sold to third parties so that they are bombarded with advertising.

It’s been an exciting journey, and we’re ever more determined to be the only keyboard the world needs.

Olivier Plante is chief executive Fleksy Keyboard.

Fleksy on Google Play and on App Store.