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The dangers of pirating SwiftKey

13th March 2013

It’ll come as little surprise that we don’t recommend downloading a pirate copy of SwiftKey. We don’t get paid, and that obviously harms our business. But piracy is also likely to harm you, as pirate Android apps tend to be full of malware and Trojans. This is particularly relevant after last week an Android blog posted step-by-step instructions on how simple it can be to turn a pirated SwiftKey APK into a malicious keylogger.

The first thing to say, loud and clear, is that this problem is completely avoided by purchasing our app through the official channels — Google Play, Amazon Appstore and Android PIT, or for beta versions, our VIP community. Official downloads of SwiftKey are completely safe, cannot be tampered with, and do not and never will log the keystrokes you type. This is set out in our very robust privacy policy that explains your legal rights as customers of ours, exactly what we do and do not do with your data, how it is kept safe and how we never collect passwords or credit card numbers (despite an alarmist warning from Google when you enable any third party keyboard app from within Android).

It’s one of the key objectives we have at SwiftKey — protecting the privacy of our users. Since we launched SwiftKey in 2010, we’ve worked hard to earn your trust. It has helped that Google chose us as a Top Developer, Editor’s Choice and featured our app over the last two years, as they only do this based on our reputation, rating and commitment to providing great apps for our users. We since became the best-selling paid app on Google Play in 2012, and as I write we’re still the world’s number one. This wouldn’t have been possible without a real commitment to the security and privacy of our users.

All of this trust and protection is lost, however, if you choose to pirate SwiftKey. It’s easy to search for “swiftkey free apk” and get a pirate copy — and because some people assume all software should be free (not just open source software), they’d rather take this route than go official, even though our app costs about the same as a fancy coffee.

I cannot emphasize enough how risky and damaging downloading pirated versions of SwiftKey can be. Sure, you might be able to buy a venti Caramel Macchiato that day with the four bucks you save, but you are also likely to find that you’ve just downloaded an intrusive trojan horse to your phone than can log everything you type and potentially clone your identity. That can be far more costly.

We are grateful to Android App Development Ireland for bringing to people’s attention how risky it is to make this mistake, but we are also now concerned that their tutorial empowers even more opportunist hackers to build keystroke loggers out of pirated Android software. As such, we felt it only right that we comment officially in order to warn people against this threat. Malware, viruses and trojans have been around since the beginning of software, but Android apps are particularly susceptible to this. Unlike iOS apps, they are relatively easy to insert malicious code into, as they are written in Java, which is easier to decompile. Add to this the ease with which someone can sideload an app onto an Android device by simply downloading an APK package file, and the problem is significant.

By buying SwiftKey from a reputable store, you won’t just get peace of mind. You’ll be joining millions of other Android users who’ve gone the official route and made SwiftKey the success it is today. You’ll be getting direct access to all updates as we produce them, straight from the source. And of course you’ll be supporting our business, meaning we grow faster and provide you with all the awesome future innovation we have planned, at a quicker pace.

Thanks for reading,

Joe Braidwood
CMO, SwiftKey

60 responses to “The dangers of pirating SwiftKey”

  1. Pete says:

    I can’t see why anyone would want a pirate. I love the flow through air fantastic

  2. WrlsFanatic says:

    From my standpoint, the only reason I’d ever pirate it is because I wanted custom color schemes. I’m a paying customer, but I might grab a customized version from someone I trust so that I can get it to look just the way I want it. If you can increase the customization options, the need to pirate becomes moot.

    • Nicolas Jeker says:

      For me it needs a customization for emoticons, I never use one of the standard ones…

    • Dakota says:

      Yes, it needs EMOTICONS OR EMOJOIS desperately. It feels very antiquated without that…And it should have some more customization with themes…Its not difficult to let users choose their backgrounds or colors…So many apps – especially many widgets let you do this. I dont know why Swiftkey doesnt. They limit you and honestly I dont like any of the themes so its another aggravating quality. I know some features and updates are hard to do and take a lot of time. Adding emoticons and letting users change the colors should be a very simple step. But knowing SK, when they do it, it will be some in-app purchase so they make you pay more or it will be a separate app.

  3. null@public.com says:

    APK sellers need to permit non-store purchases. Some of us don’t want Google, Amazon, or anyone else monitoring what apps or what versions we install. One can purchase Titanium Backup, for example, with nothing more than a PayPal account…why can’t one buy SwiftKey without giving up privacy to Amazon or Google?

  4. r.™ says:

    Best Keyboard Ever… Don’t Pirate, Purchase!

  5. Gene Tran says:

    Why I have to pay twice for phone and tablet version? That’s just ridiculous.

  6. jigsawhacker says:

    SwiftKey doesn’t learn from I type on whatsapp and that’s very frustrating. Please fix it. If there are privacy issues in doing that, please give an “opt-in” option.

    Edit (3/26): This Issue has been fixed in the version released today. Thanks a lot for the wonderful app and thanks for listening to us SwiftKey!

    • felipecn says:

      WhatsApp uses a closed database only it can read. Unless you are on a rooted phone.

      They used to leave the backup database on SD uncrypted, but due to privacy issues (anyone with access to your SD could read your DB), they protect it now

      • jigsawhacker says:

        I’m not talking about training it beforehand. I’m talking about “learn as you type”. I thought keyboard apps have access to what we type at least. If swiftkey doesn’t do this out of privacy concerns, at least give an opt-in for users who trust swiftkey enough ( it anyway asks for twitter/fb access if the user wants it to learn from them; why not do this too?). Or learn from whatsapp’s DB if the user is rooted.

    • Dakota says:

      It also doesnt seem to be able to learn from multiple email accounts. Seems you can only use 1 Gmail but many of us have multiple Gmails and believe it or not people use other services like Yahoo and Outlook. It should learn from things like VIber or WhatsApp too. I dont find it learning too well from just my regular typing. I had typed the same exact phrase 4 times in a few paragraphs and it still wasnt predicting it. I find this app extremely overhyped. Maybe cuz the standard keyboard is so bad…but this doesnt live up to the claims

  7. Miloš Mirković says:

    Thanks for making it available in AndroidPIT, not everyone can purchase through Google Play. That said, after using it for quite some time, i’d pay double for it, it’s that useful.

  8. William Votta says:

    Can we review and selectively edit the history of saves word suggestions? Cuz I can’t find it and my passwords on some apps like when I TeamViewer into something, are auto completing!

  9. rmkilc says:

    If you packaged tablet and phone versions of apps into one apk like Android apps are supposed to be, then I might actually care what you have to say. You won’t find me using SwiftKey.

  10. Troy Chandler says:

    I hate how people pirate some stuff, such as SwiftKey. It doesn’t need to be pirated. I think it should be purchased like everything else that should be paid for. This has nothing to do with the blog post, but I think that in the next version of SwiftKey, there should be a way to import words from the Android device that you are using. It would use WiFi (and NFC for phones with NFC tags) to import, export, or combine dictionaries, or have a cloud by making an account on SwiftKey.

    • Dakota says:

      Well for better or worse, some people think $4 compared to what other apps and keyboards cost is a lot, especially if youre asking them to buy 2 versions.

  11. Clint Porter says:

    Thanks for alerting people to the danger. What an excellent way to put it in perspective. I got mine in the $1 sale, so I practically “stole” it! It’s the only app I’ve ever actually purchased, but it’s worth every bit of $4 to me. Without SwiftKey I probably wouldn’t have bothered to leave this comment, but it’s just so easy to “flow” it!

  12. Corey Marchant says:

    Bought swiftkey3 and swiftkey3 tablet!

  13. Demdex says:

    This is the best Android keyboard I have recommended it to many people. I believe there are apps that are must haves and SwiftKey is in the top 5. Just buy it, worth every penny

  14. Paul Vinell says:

    I’m definitely considering pirating SwiftKey Flow Tablet, seeing as I accidentally bought SwiftKey Flow Mobile on AndroidPIT. I’d like to contact you, but it’s freaking impossible when you don’t have email support and just a public forum… I don’t want to fucking tell the world about my problem, they don’t have anything to do with it and they can’t fix it.

    • Charlie Edmunds says:

      Hi Paul – please email us on hello@swiftkey.net and we’ll see what we can do.

      • Dakota says:

        You never get a response when you email that address. You get some long scripted form letter telling you to ch eck the Swiftkey website, which you already did because thats how users got your email to begin with. Maybe you need more customer service personnel. Irealize you have a lot of users worldwide, but you have awful customer service as you dont respond to anything

  15. Chrisjan Botha says:

    I bought Swiftkey for my tablet and cellphone – unfortunately the cellphone app does not work properly on my Samsung Galaxy S3 mini – inbetween Google, Swiftkey and Samsung a fix has not been forthcoming for several months.

  16. Combine SwiftKey with Swiftkey Tablet and i will be happy, i bought the phone app only to realise you later came up with SwiftKey tablet, not happy… that’s not to say i pirated it because i haven’t, mainly because i’m too busy or not bothered enough, or maybe the fact i use Swipe on my Nexus 7, either way… they should be combined.

  17. Remi D. says:

    This app is simply the best app I ever bought!! PLEASE BUY IT don’t go for the pirated version… Please! Support this team who entirely changed my “typing life”!!

  18. Nicolas Jeker says:

    i I pirated SwiftKey because I can only pay via PayPal and google play doesn’t offer paying through PayPal in Switzerland… If I could buy it via PayPal I wouldn’t hesitate to pay even 6 bucks…

    • Ruth Barnett says:

      Hi Nicolas, you can buy SwiftKey using PayPal on Android PIT. Ruth @ SwiftKey.

      • Nicolas Jeker says:

        Thanks for the answer, I’ve done it now, but it’s annoying to have the Android PIT App Center alongside Google Play just to update 1 App… I Hope Play supports PayPal soon here or, even better, you support non-store purchases (like Titanium Backup and Apex Launcher).

      • Dakota says:

        Ive noticed the moderators ignore all questions and comments on these boards unless they involve some kind of payment or billing. Interesting

  19. JonSnow16 says:

    Hey, I really want to buy this awesome app, but I want to buy it in PayPal way.. I’m very sad that I have to download it without buying it 🙁

  20. Xyzzy says:

    I believe in paying for things I use/enjoy — but when reporters imply that all smartphone app sources are similarly dangerous, they come across as either not having a clue (and not having bothered to do their homework) or as knowingly misrepresenting the situation. As far as I’ve ever seen, the risk comes from downloading both legally & illegally from places where there’s no community structure, moderators to enforce rules, or reputations to maintain.

    I do have to politely disagree, based on several studies I’ve read, with the assertion that file-sharing “obviously” damages the bottom line. Regardless of media type, there tends to be three core groups of people that pirate:
    — those that wish to ensure something isn’t junk they’ll delete within a few days

    — folks with very limited disposable income (typically disabled, unemployed, or underage)
    — people that collect/trade files like stamps without using them

    The first group will either delete an item or pay up and recommend it to others that trust their judgment; many aren’t comfortable judging by a lite/adware/trial copy and will simply turn away from something if it’s not available, so discouraging their piracy tends to backfire.

    The second group pirates a great deal during their financial downtime (as they can’t afford to buy) and enthusiastically promotes anything they like. As soon as they have disposable income, they start buying legal copies and purchasing the new creations by people whose work they’d pirated repeatedly in the past. (Owning an Android device no longer means being free from poverty, given used phones are dirt cheap, VOIP is free over wifi and providers like Ting can cost under $10/month.)

    The third group pirates as a hobby (some with the altruistic side-motive of wishing to help current members of group #2 as others helped them long ago), so discouragement attempts at best will have no effect and might well be taken as a challenge.

    Piracy is nothing new: it went on via “sneakernet” back when software paid for in advance was assumed to be professional-quality. Since all three groups turn to another app if they can’t pirate the one they’re interested in, discouraging them decreases sales — as when they do pirate, the first group will pay if they feel the app is worth using, the second one will pay once they’re realistically able to do so, and the third often effectively enables the first two.

    The one thing to keep in mind is that the vast majority of the population has no real interest in pirating… They lack the knowledge needed, and it’s difficult/time-consuming enough to obtain & install it that they will spend the money to buy it if they can afford to do so… It’s like gourmet coffee: they could grind their own beans, brew it up in their home drip coffeemaker just the way they like it — but the majority of people buy it anyway, not because they’re afraid of any danger, but simply because they feel the small fee for the convenience is worth the time, effort & potential worry it saves them.

  21. v.o says:

    I have a pirate version of the app because I can’t pay for it because Google doesn’t accept PayPal.. And they don’t activate the gift card for the rest the world

  22. There ought to be easier ways to pay. I’m from India, and I do have bought via Google Play because I know how to use entropay (our debit cards don’t work for play store, etc). Not so with friends who use $200 phones. There’s no easy way to pay since it is not feasible for everyone to get a credit card (especially students) or use entropay.

    You probably can’t do much about it, but I’m just telling my point how piracy could be reduced a bit.

  23. Jakub Fric says:

    i bought swiftkey first day i got my phone and im really happy about it. But i really dont like version 4 (flow, predictions etc) so i had to pirate version 3…

  24. Oliver Kipling says:

    I don’t often buy apps as so many free ones out there, but SwiftKey was my first. I couldn’t live without it I recommend it constantly. Best app on my phone! The few $ didn’t even hurt a bit.

  25. di5order says:

    I love SK so much that I let my friends use my phone (and tablet) so they could test it out. Everyone of them ended up buying SK with the exception of one who pirated it.

    Once I explained that 1) it is not expensive 2) it’s worth every penny [I bought both the phone and tablet versions] and 3) the funds from each purchase makes sure that SK will keep being updated / coders get paid she purchased it from Play Market.

    Keep up the great work!

  26. Kent Lee says:

    i had no idea how dangerous pirating games was until i saw this, but 4 dollars is too expensive for me and i dont have a credit card 🙁

  27. Ex SwiftKey user says:

    I loved this keyboard so I purchased it and have used it for over 6 months on my galaxy s3. However, when testing the s4 rom that has been circulating recently I really liked how Samsung has made a separate number row at the top of the keyboard. I know some people say its just as easy long pressing, but I disagree. I would revert back to Swiftkey straight away if you provided the ability to insert a number bar at the top. It could just be an option in advanced settings so it wouldn’t affect happy customers, but might help you draw in some additional ones. Please consider this as I have seen other people requesting the same in various android forums. Thanks

    • Nicolas Jeker says:

      Just to say how I’ve done it: Use a minimal long-press delay (I use approximately 200 ms) for single numbers and switch to second (numbers) page to type long numbers…

  28. Appollo scott says:

    Keep up the good work guys I just spent the three bucks on your app and I love it. I have seen it in the app store but I was leary because it says it collects the information you type. However after reading the reviews I was sold. This is a really good app that Google should have included in it’s OS but anyways, you made a good product you deserve the money.

  29. Ahmad says:

    I would love to buy this app, this is an absolute necessary for me, but the problem is that there are no means to buy anything from play store, amazon store or even paypal in my country. The situation forces the people in my country to pirate it.

  30. Todd says:

    For those android phone owners that do not have a credit card, you cannot get the paid app. Why can’t the cost be added to my phone bill? I really like the app but can’t get the full version due to lack of a credit card.

  31. Jennie Feingold says:

    I have purchased swift key. How can get the apk file for backup for safe keeping

  32. gaurav thakur says:

    I have a simple question…what if after buying I change my phone…will I have to buy again???

  33. Evan Goodrich says:

    It would make more sense to purchase this app so it can credit the developers and improve so it can reach its full potential.

  34. James Rocha says:

    I bought Swiftkey for my phone and love it. However, when I restart my phone it defaults back to the stock keyboard. I understand this is a known bug and isn’t a Swiftkey problem, but checking the forums some people are saying they’ve fixed the problem by sideloading the app. Do you know if there is any truth to this?

  35. Arun Samotra says:

    I had downloaded the trial version of this app and loved it. I wanted to purchase the app and headed for Play store only to find that my card could not be authorized as I reside in India. With no alternative left, I bought the app using my brother’s card and it worked! I uninstalled the trial version to make a fresh installation of the paid app, but now it wouldn’t install at all. I keep getting “Package file is invalid” error. I’ve tried downloading the app 5-6 times, cleared cache and even restarted my phone twice. I really want to keep using Swiftkey. Please help!

    Love your app, btw! 😀

  36. David R says:

    Same as Nicholas Jeker’s comment below…I pirated it only because I COULDN’T buy the silly thing. Amazon’s Android market wouldn’t let me buy it for my rooted Kindle (I even did live chat with their rep and asked REALLY nicely), and GooglePlay insisted I create a Google Wallet account and give them my credit card to have and to hold for eternity. Like Nicholas, I would’ve been happy to pay for it using Paypal, which protects me. Google has ENOUGH of my personal info already; I’m not giving them my credit card, too. So I spent the better part of an hour TRYING to give you guys money, but ultimately I had to go the side route to get your app.

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