With Apple opening up iOS to third-party keyboard for the first time this fall the battle of over which app you use to type out your messages is about to heat up. Services like SwiftKey, Swype, Fleksy and Google's own keyboard are already competing on Android, but ahead of the official iOS 8 release SwiftKey is throwing down the gauntlet and switching from the traditional paid-app model to a free version complete with in-app purchases.

Until today SwiftKey, Swype and Fleksy all offered the same deal: a 30-day free trial followed by a $3.99 download. Now SwiftKey is free, or to be more accurate it's freemium. The company is hoping it can actually make more money by coaxing users onboard with a free app before pushing in-app purchases to a larger audience. The move could be a huge hint at SwiftKey's strategy going into iOS 8, and may even force its competitors to follow suit in both Apple and Google's app stores.

If you already paid for SwiftKey on Android don't worry. As a special thank you for paying $3.99, the company is offering a special $4.99 Premier Pack with 10 special keyboard themes for free. SwiftKey is also adding a ton of new features, including an improved default theme, even more emoji (more than 800 in total), the ability to predict emoji based on the words you type, a row of numbers on the main display for easy access, more languages and a new SwiftKey store for making in-app purchases. The app's prediction engine is also getting a tune-up and improved flow trails for swiping your messages.

SwiftKey is available now as a free download on Android, and you can grab it via the Google Play link below. As for the iPhone version, you'll have to wait until iOS 8 hits the market this fall, though for now Apple fans can check out the company's note-taking app for a taste of that swipe-to-type magic.