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The best third-party keyboards for iPhone and iPad

Michael Simon | June 29, 2016
Let’s face it: Third-party keyboards have left Apple’s iOS keyboard in the dust. Here are our favorite picks.

In-keyboard search results make Gboard unique, but it’s only part of what makes it great.

Gboard also offers a toggle for emoji suggestions, but while it’s nice to have the option, it’s unlikely anyone would want to turn it off. Emoji symbols appear as you type and replace the text that was written, a seemingly obvious touch that other keyboards don’t always get right. Tap the emoji symbol at the bottom of the keyboard and you’ll get much more than a scrollable list of faces and figures; in fact, Gboard’s emoji keyboard all but eliminates the need to keep another around. Unless you have a thing for stickers or giant icons, Gboard will more than fit your emoji needs, with excellent organization, speedy navigation, and a powerful search bar that quickly pares down Apple’s sizable library with live results. 

But this being a Google keyboard, finding things isn’t limited to emoji. Tap the G symbol and you’ll get a stripped-down web search bar, which lets you paste images, GIFs, and links into whatever you’re typing. It’s a neat feature that comes in handy more than you think—particularly when using Messages or Twitter.

Even if you never use it to search the web, Gboard is the best keyboard you’re likely to find. While Google’s version of swipe typing doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, it leverages the power of its excellent dictionary to deliver a top-notch experience that’s as accurate as it is fast.

Runner-Up: Word Flow

Microsoft may have all but given up on its Windows Phone strategy, but its iOS app game is stronger than ever—and Word Flow (free, iPhone only) is something else entirely. Where Microsoft’s iOS productivity apps are a natural extension of its brand, Word Flow is nothing less than a labor of love.

wordflow1

Word Flow’s sense of style adds a bit of elegance to your writing.

Born out of the company’s indie-minded Garage lab and built specifically for the iPhone, the slide-centric keyboard hits all the right notes, while still managing to add some originality along the way. Visually, it’s flawless: Letters light up with a subtle blue glow as your fingers glide over them, and when swiping, the path of your words is traced with a playful line of dots that adds just a bit of whimsy.

Along with an impressive level of customization (which goes so far as to allow you to underlay the keys with one of your own photos), Word Flow also understands that easy access to emoji is more important to some people than punctuation. Much like the way it handles words, it puts a premium on organization and speed, keeping track of your most recently-used smileys and symbols, and letting you easily jump between sections. And a built-in search from the main keyboard will keep common characters at your fingertips. 

 

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