SwiftKey may be gearing up to launch its very first system-wide iOS keyboard app, but for now the London-based company is knuckling down to bring some big changes to its existing Android users.

Launched back in 2010, SwiftKey‘s smart, predictive keyboard app has been downloaded tens of millions of times, and has found itself among the best-selling paid apps on Google Play.

SwiftKey replaces your device’s default keyboard, and learns your personal writing style over time, even predicting your next word. Back in 2012, the company rolled out SwiftKey Flow, a Swype-like ‘gliding’ gesture input that means your finger remains firmly planted on the keyboard at all times, with the release confirming your word selection.

SwiftKey has hitherto come in two flavors – a free trial version that expired after 30 days, after which you cough up $3.99 to access the keyboard indefinitely. Now, however, SwiftKey is going completely free.

From today, SwiftKey Keyboard Free will be superseded by a new app that does not expire. This is a big move for the company, one that sets it apart from competitors such as Swype and Fleksy, which currently adopt a similar 30-day trial period to that of SwiftKey, followed by a mandatory $3.99 upgrade.

“This is the start of an incredibly exciting phase for us as a business,” explains SwiftKey co-founder and CEO Jon Reynolds. “We have made the decision to go free to better enable everyone, everywhere, to use SwiftKey’s market-leading technology without payment being a barrier. We’re focused not only on reaching more users with our powerful technology, but on building great content and features to engage them.”

Apps of wrath

Naturally, making what was once a paid-for product completely free can incur the wrath of those who have previously stumped up four bucks to procure an app. But as a good-will gesture, SwiftKey is letting paid-for users download a $4.99 ‘Premier Pack’ of 10 themes for free.

This actually ties in with SwiftKey’s shift in monetization focus for its consumer apps. Now, rather than charging for the app itself, a new SwiftKey Store will feature a slew of free and premium themes, which we’re told are the number one most requested feature. Everyone loves to personalize, right?

To access SwiftKey Store, you will have to enable access to Swiftkey Cloud. There will be 30 new themes for launch, though the Store will be “regularly updated with fun customizable content.”

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But that’s not all. With SwiftKey 5, a number of additional new features are being introduced for free to all users, some of which have previously been available to beta users.

Not only is there now support for more than 800 emoji, but this includes emoji prediction which will suggest smileys and other icons based on your historical use. Plus, an optional number row has been introduced, meaning you can have permanent access to numbers without relying on a long-press or switching layouts. You can enable this through the ‘Layout’ option in settings.

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Other fresh features include a new default ‘Nickel’ theme design, and support for five new languages – Belarusian, Mongolian, Tatar, Uzbek and Welsh.

Android, iOS and the push for millions

At WWDC last week, Apple made a range of announcements – OS X Yosemite, iCloud Drive, iOS 8, HealthKit, HomeKit, and even a new programming language. But the news that third-party keyboards are coming to iOS will have resonated with many.

Though SwiftKey has already been making small inroads into the iOS realm, launching a simple note-taking app called SwiftKey Note that syncs with Evernote, it will soon be helping iOS users type across the whole system. This will be huge for SwiftKey and others like it when iOS 8 finally arrives in the autumn.

Moreover, SwiftKey has become much more than a handy keyboard to improve your WhatsApp-ing or Google searching on mobile – the technology has gone in-car too, while it has become embedded in healthcare and across other industries. SwiftKey is currently featured on more than 200 million devices around the world.

Now, with SwiftKey moving to a completely free model, it’s hoping to open the floodgates to users everywhere, “especially in developing economies,” the company says. In-app purchases have proven to be a lucrative business for many startups, so by bringing down the paywall, SwiftKey’s plans to on-board millions more users and monetize through alternative means could prove to be its shrewdest move yet. It’s also indicative of the direction it’s taking ahead of its arrival on iOS later this year.

The new, completely free SwiftKey is available to download now.

SwiftKey | Google Play