SwiftKey released a new beta version of its customizable Android keyboard app today, adding support for over 500 emoji characters and an optional, dedicated row of numbers.

Emoji are popular emoticons or symbols that convey common words or phrases. In version 4.5 of SwiftKey – available now on beta.swiftkey.net and the company’s forums – users running Android 4.1 or higher can opt to see relevant emoji alongside other predictive text suggestions.

SwiftKey leverages the Android system emoji font, so from your perspective they’ll appear in black and white for Jelly Bean, but full color for devices running KitKat. Emoji will also be displayed differently on the recipient’s side depending on the platform and messaging app they’re using.

Swiftkey1 New SwiftKey beta brings over 500 emoji and an optional number row to Android keyboards

So if you start typing the word ‘pizza’, for instance, you’ll now see an emoji symbol for the popular dish alongside the app’s other suggestions. The emoji in SwiftKey cover five categories at the moment – people, objects, nature, places and symbols – and can be selected manually by long-pressing the enter key.

SwiftKey prides itself on being able to learn your preferences – if you give the app access to your SMS, email, Facebook and Twitter archives, the replacement keyboard will learn to correct typos or suggest words that fit the context of your message. In the same vein, this latest SwiftKey beta will improve over time and suggest emoji that you use most often.

Under ‘Settings’ and ‘Theme & Layout’, version 4.5 of SwiftKey also includes a new checkbox for adding a number row to all of its existing keyboard layouts. If you find yourself regularly tapping in phone numbers or long codes – and have a large display to accommodate it – this can be an effective way to improve your current typing speed.

Swiftkey2 New SwiftKey beta brings over 500 emoji and an optional number row to Android keyboards

The release is only a beta for now, but if it’s embraced by the community it’s more than likely these new features will be patched into the official SwiftKey app in the Google Play store.

➤ SwiftKey Beta