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Meet the first crop of third-party keyboards for iOS 8

Brian Beam | Sept. 30, 2014
Here's a quick preview of some of the most popular keyboards that have been downloaded and installed on iOS 8 since its recent release, most of which are optimized for both the iPhone and iPad.

I didn't think I would care for a swipe-style keyboard, but I've become a fan of Swype on my iPhone 6, although not as much on the iPad's larger keyboard. In the short time I've used it, my typing speed and accuracy are much better than I had expected.

SwiftKey (free) is another popular alternative keyboard from the Android world, and already has quite a bit of buzz within the iOS community, thanks to its Note app that launched earlier in 2014. It supports the "swipe-to-type" system--called SwiftKey Flow--and, also like Swype, you can either swipe or tap on the keys as you prefer.

SwiftKey watches what you type and attempts to learn your habits so that it can make corrections and predictions. By itself, this isn't a unique feature, but SwiftKey takes it a few steps further: If you connect to the app via Google or Facebook, it can read your past correspondences to learn more about you and your language, and then store all that data through an option called SwiftKey Cloud.

This has several interesting implications: If you use multiple devices--say, an iPhone and an iPad--SwiftKey can use this cloud storage to sync your typing profile among your other devices, so that you have a consistent experience on all of them. Similarly, when it comes time to get a new device, or if you need to replace a lost or broken one, you can easily restore your typing profile to the replacement. While I really like the convenience this provides, it also brings up some concerns regarding privacy and security. (More about that later, but SwiftKey Cloud is an opt-in service, so you can decide whether or not you'd like to use it.)

Yet another keyboard that started out on Android, Syntellia's Fleksy ($1) had previously been available on iOS as a standalone text-processing app, in which you'd compose your text using its special keyboard, and then copy/paste into other apps. Now, with iOS 8, you can use Fleksy's keyboard system wide on your iOS device, and this may be just the keyboard that ham-fisted typists have been looking for.

Rather than looking at the actual letters you tap, Fleksy observes the general pattern you've formed on the keyboard and then tries to figure out what you meant to type. The developers say this works reliably even if you don't type a single letter correctly. (This claim might just well be justified: Someone used the Fleksy keyboard to set the current Guinness Word Record for fastest touch-screen text message.)

I've found that Fleksy usually does a good job of correcting common spelling mistakes, and I like how you can quickly swipe right to add a space or swipe left to delete a word. However, I won't break any speed records with it (or with any software keyboard, for that matter). But, it may be just what a lot of bad typists have been waiting for.


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