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SAN FRANCISCO — Keyboard app SwiftKey’s decision to go free last month, after establishing itself as one of the few successful paid Android apps, doesn’t seem so crazy now.

The company tells VentureBeat it has seen monthly user engagement go up 54 percent since dropping its previous $4 price in mid-June. By removing the friction of paying for its app, SwiftKey’s goal was to attract more users. A month later, it seems like that plan is working out.

SwiftKey says it has also seen more than 12 million downloads of its free and premium themes, which also launched when the app went free. The company isn’t yet offering any specific revenue or user numbers, but the strong theme downloads show that there’s a strong user interest in customizing their keyboards.

Joe Braidwood, SwiftKey’s chief marketing officer, said during our MobileBeat conference this afternoon that the company was particularly worried about its ranking on Google Play after going free. There aren’t too many other examples of top-ranking paid apps going free, and Swiftkey’s team was concerned since that ranking directly affects an app’s popularity.

Initially, the company predicted the new app would land somewhere between the 25th and 30th spot in Google Play’s free app chart. It ended up reaching the 21st spot in Google Play’s top free apps chart, and the 32nd spot in overall top free offerings (which includes games).

Braidwood tells me SwiftKey is also gearing up for a big marketing push with the new app.  “Before, we were kind of like the Mercedes Benz of keyboards, now it’s a very different challenge,” he said.


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