With the launch of iOS 8, Apple has allowed developers to release third-party keyboards, which can be used in place of the system’s default keyboard option. Developers have jumped at the chance to create these experiences for users, and Apple has gone one step further, highlighting some of the options as featured apps in the iTunes App Store. Here’s a look at some of the keyboards you might want to check out for your iOS 8 device.
Swiftkey (Free) – Swiftkey [pictured at top] offers a swipe-to-type experience, as users tap on a single letter, and then swipe their finger on the screen to complete the word, one letter at a time. Swiftkey then determines the most likely word you were trying to type, whether it be a name or general text. Users can choose from a dark or light color theme for the keyboard, and the app supports signing in with third-party social media accounts to make the keyboard smarter.
Generally using the keyboard increases its intelligence over time, much like the default iOS 8 keyboard, but this account syncing boosts the process along, importing key words and phrases from a user’s Facebook or Twitter profiles (for instance) to offer them as predictive text options while typing. This includes support for the names of contacts, which the keyboard might have trouble spelling otherwise. The app supports English, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and French language options.
Swype ($0.99) – Much like Swiftkey, Swype is a swipe-to-type keyboard, but without the account syncing. It offers more visual themes than Swiftkey, with support for both dark and light options, as well as two in an outer space setting (one for the sun and another for the moon), and one representing sand on a beach. The app supports four languages: English, German, French and Italian, and the ability to add original words (like a nickname or unique place name) to a personal dictionary for later predictive typing.
Fleksy ($0.99) – Fleksy is a more traditional keyboard, but allows for color customizations to make the keyboard look more unique and personalized. Keyboards can be given a variety of color themes, with colors including black and white, pink, green, yellow and navy blue. Other colors, like bright blue, orange, red and so on, are available via in-app purchase. Users can change the size of the keys depending on their preference.
Like Swiftkey, Fleksy supports account syncing with external accounts, including Facebook, Gmail and Twitter. The app is also gamified, giving users badges for completing tasks like downloading additional languages or completing the app tutorial. Fleksy supports multiple different languages.
In addition to color options, the keyboard supports broad swiping motions on the keys to delete (backspace) or add a space to a phrase. Swiping left works to delete, while swiping right adds a space, eliminating the need to reach for those separate keys as normal. Other swipes will auto-add punctuation to a sentence, change out the current predicted word, add any word to the personal dictionary, or change from one supported language to another, among other options.
MyScript Stack (Free) – This option completely replaces a device’s traditional keyboard with one supporting handwriting. MyScript says this option is useful when focusing on a standard keyboard is not convenient, like when walking or listening and jotting notes, when one wouldn’t want to constantly look down at the keyboard. The keyboard offers one large blank space, and supports 58 languages for text entry and predictive typing. Users draw one letter at a time using their fingertips, and the app predicts the final word as users draw.
The area has a few expected buttons, like a space bar, enter and delete keys. These prompts can also be drawn, with a space represented by a quick swipe to the right, backspace by a swipe to the left, and return with a swipe in the shape of a rigid J.
MyScript has also announced the upcoming release of MyScript Stylus, a similar handwriting app, which focuses on more complete natural handwriting, as the app transforms whole drawn words into digital text one word at a time, rather than one letter at a time. The company says this app will be useful for users when writing emails, browsing the web, and so on. MyScript Stylus will launch later this month.
Other featured keyboards include TextExpander 3 ($4.99), Minuum ($1.99) and KuaiBoard ($1.99). Additional keyboard options will continue to roll out going forward, so if you haven’t already found something you like, you’ll have another chance soon enough.