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How to install and use third-party keyboards on your iPhone or iPad

Nick Mediati | April 25, 2016
Are you still using iOS's built-in keyboard? It's easy to switch to a third-party keyboard that may better suit your needs. We'll show you how.

Released in fall 2014, iOS 8 brought with it a truckload of new features—one of which was the ability to swap out Apple’s built-in keyboard with one of your choosing supplied by a third-party developer. After all, the stock keyboard isn’t for everyone, and it has its fair share of shortcomings.

If you’ve never tried a new keyboard, now’s a good time to explore your options, and making the switch is a fairly easy process. Here’s how to go about it.

Before we begin, a note about privacy

Since third-party keyboards can access anything you type in, there are some privacy risks inherent to using such a piece of software. As Apple notes in a privacy disclaimer nestled in the Settings app, third-party keyboards may be able to send anything you type to that company’s servers. For example, a keyboard may need to communicate with a server in order to analyze what you type and offer up better autocorrect suggestions. 

allow full access
Third-party keyboards may need to communicate with a server in order for certain features to work. You’ll need to explicitly grant such access to each keyboard you install. 

Fortunately, iOS has got your back. Keyboards don’t receive this level of access—which Apple refers to as “full access”—by default: You have to explicitly allow keyboards to submit any data it collects to a server. Also, you can easily switch between and remove third-party keyboards as you please, so you can change your mind later.

Finding a keyboard

iOS treats keyboards more or less as apps—you have to go through the App Store to purchase and download them.

You have a number of options at your disposal. Swype ($1) is one popular option—it allows you to swipe your finger over letters in order to form words instead of punching a word out letter by letter. (Want to type “cat”? Place your finger on the C, swipe up to A, over to T, then release your finger). SwiftKey Keyboard (free) is worth checking out as well.

keyboards app store
From fun to practical, the App Store offers plenty of keyboards for you to try out.

Developers have come up with all sorts of unique and novel keyboards that go beyond standard text input, though—see Oscar Raymundo’s slideshow from last August to get a taste of what awaits you. Also, check the Add Fun Keyboards page accessible through the App Store’s Utilities section (open the App Store, tap Categories, then tap Utilities).

Once you find a keyboard you want to try, go ahead and download it like you would any other iOS app. (For the sake of this article, I’m using SwiftKey’s keyboard.)

 

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