Monday, July 17, 2017

How to Go Incognito on Android Using Gboard & SwiftKey

A smartphone keyboard is arguably one of the most important tools any user relies on to input information from addresses, phone numbers, email addresses & passwords. It’s a treasure trove of information & if you’re paranoid about OEMs or third party companies mining data and selling it to advertisers, let me tell you that those concerns are not unfounded. While a good keyboard learns from your typing and makes suggestions based on usage, there are certainly times when the user need privacy and does not want the keyboard to learn about their typing habits and data. This is where Gboard and SwiftKey come into the picture. They’re both keyboards equipped to allow users to go incognito on Android while browsing.

But we’ll have to see which keyboard fares better when it comes to implementation and doing the job.

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Going Incognito on Android Using Third-Party Keyboards

While SwiftKey is made by an actual third-party developer which has been in development for nearly 7 years, Google is the maker of Gboard. With the exception of few OEMs and Nexus devices, because of antitrust regulations (one would assume), Google doesn’t bundle phones with Gboard but rather an older version of Google Keyboard or the Indic Keyboard. Thus I’ve classified it under the category of third-party since it requires effort on the part of the user to download it from the Play Store.


Swiftkey keyboard featured image

The keyboard itself is almost as old as the Android platform. SwiftKey was one of the more innovative keyboards on the market because of its learning, gesture typing and accurate prediction methods. This helped SwiftKey gain a good share of the user base which helped the company even launch their keyboard on iOS in 2014. But late last year they introduced Incognito mode specifically for their keyboards to allow users to pause the keyboard from learning about their texting habits.

How to Enable Incognito on SwiftKey

Step 1: Launch the SwiftKey directly after downloading from the Play Store. Follow these steps to enable SwiftKey as your keyboard.

Getting started with SwiftKey

From left to right: Enable SwiftKey, select as default input method & toggle between sign-in for keyboard learning

Step 2: Once the SwiftKey keyboard UI shows up, select the hamburger menu in the top right corner of the keyboard. From the list of options below, select the Incognito icon.

Setting up Incognito Mode on SwiftKey

From left to right: Select the hamburger menu & select Incognito mode button

Press the same & it will turn the keyboard black to indicate that the keyboard is switched over to incognito.

Step 3: The incognito mode is disabled by going back to the hamburger menu.

Setting up Incognito Mode in SwiftKey

Setting up Incognito Mode in SwiftKey

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Gboard keyboard featured image

Gboard only recently released its incognito feature. Unfortunately, it’s not as complete as SwiftKey’s incognito mode since it only works on Google Chrome at this time. In contrast to SwiftKey, it requires developers to implement an incognito environment (for the lack of a better term) in their app to get Google to switch to incognito mode.

Going Incognito with Gboard

Step 1: Similar to SwiftKey, follow the same instructions to set-up Gboard as the default input method.

Step 2: Since Incognito mode works only on Chrome’s incognito environment, here’s an example of how the keyboard looks. The keyboard automatically changes without user prompts.

Incognito mode in Gboard

Using Gboard’s regular vs Incognito keyboard in Google Chrome

The colour change seen varies depending on the user’s theme. And while automatic change is advantageous, I do wish Google has gone further and implemented this feature in Allo’s secret chat environment.


At the time of writing this article, it’s pretty evident that SwiftKey has the upper hand over Gboard when it comes to incognito mode because of Google’s half-baked attempt at releasing the feature. This article doesn’t consider keyboard prediction or accuracy into consideration as it varies on a case by case basis from what I’ve observed.

Although I’m just as guilty as everyone when it comes to fully jumping into the Google ecosystem, it’s quite clear that it’s against Google’s best interests to let users have more control over the incognito mode because user data is more valuable to them. Maybe I’m dead wrong and Google is already working to implement an incognito button similar to SwiftKey’s. But only time will tell.

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