5 iOS 8 Keyboards That Are Better Than What Apple Gives You

5 iOS 8 Keyboards That Are Better Than What Apple Gives You

With the arrival of iOS 8, the iPhone finally -- finally! -- gets access to custom keyboards, liberating your thumbs from the tyranny of Apple's tepid offering. Here's a guide to some of the best keyboards coming your way today or in the near future.

How to add a new keyboard

To add a new keyboard, you need to first download and install the individual keyboard app. Then, navigate to your keyboard preferences inside your iPhone's Settings app and add the keyboard to your list of available input methods. It will be added to a list right next to English (US) and Emoji.

Then, when you go to type an email, status update, text message, tweet, etc., you can access the alternative input method -- your keyboard of choice -- by tapping the little globe button to the left of the spacebar.


SwiftKey and Swype

SwiftKey and Swype will be launching iOS versions of their very popular Android keyboards (free, $US1) . The two apps share core features, and whether you like one or the other is mostly a matter of taste. They're both based around a swiping input method; put your finger down on your phone's screen, drag it around from letter to letter, and the apps figure out what word you're trying to spell, even if you slide sloppily.

The predictive tech is supplemented by brains that learn your style from your inputs on the keyboard over time, as well as from what you write on your Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. The keyboards get so smart that the apps are useful not just for swiping, but also for typing out words if that's more your style.

Fleksy

Fleksy ($1) is a saviour for sloppy typists -- or just people in a hurry. It boasts an excellent autocorrect system that can translate even the most hastily garbled inputs into real words. Gestures help make the app faster, too; if you don't like the first autocorrect suggestion Fleksy provides, you can scroll through them with an up and down swipe anywhere on the keyboard.

If you don't like the options you've been given at all, swiping from right to left on the keyboard works like a giant delete button. Fleksy also has plenty of customisation options so you can change the look and feel of the app, although, we should note, some of them will cost you extra. Out today.

TextExpander

With the launch of iOS 8, TextExpander will be introduce a keyboard application that makes typing out long tedious things you write all the time easier. TextExpander already exists as a popular desktop utility that turns shortcut phrases into a longer chunk of characters. For example, when I want to send our office address to someone, I simply type "gizhq" and it pops out to a full address, including building access instructions.

TextExpander already exists as an iPhone app, but because of the Apple's sandbox, you couldn't use it to expand snippets in other apps unless they'd implemented the SDK. Thanks to iOS 8's Extensions feature, your snippets can finally be used anywhere on your phone. The keyboard just went live with the latest TextExpander update ($5).

PopKey

Before PopKey, the only way to text a reaction GIF to a friend was to go hunt one down in your Photos app. Or worse, if you didn't have a GIF to match the moment exactly, you would have to go to the internet, find the GIF, download the GIF, and then add the GIF to your message. So much precious reaction time lost! With PopKey, you can search a library of thousands of GIFs for "LOL" "OMG" or "GTFO" or whatever else. Unfortunately, PopKey isn't live just yet, but you can sign up for updates here.


Comments

    I'd love to know what kind of performance drop you'll take using a keyboard like PopKey.

    The biggest thing I'm going to miss when I lose my jailbreak for iOS 8 is a keyboard tweak that allowed me to scroll through my written text by swiping left and right on the keyboard. SO MUCH EASIER to use than that ridiculous native magnifying glass scrolling.

    Why not the Google keyboard? I'm finding it the best one out there. I use to like swype but it got to inaccurate. Don't like swift key either although their prediction text is the best but swyping has too many errors.

      Yep SwiftKeys' prediction has gotten worse with every update they made to the app, at least on Android. Swype is great as is Google Keyboard (but I dont like the thought of Google knowing everything I input into my device so I use Swype as my default).

    So basically, anything is better than the stock iPhone keyboard?

    Only 4 years late Apple :)

    No mention of Minuum? I think it's one of the most innovative and useful keyboards out there!

    After having switched to Android a while back, but still owning an iPad, one of the worst things about using my iPad has been the keyboard. Will be great to install Swiftkey when I'm using it next. Hopefully Swiftkey on iOS will allow a separate number row, as well as long press for alternative characters, like on Android.

    Also, Apple introduced natural scrolling in Mac OS X because it 'makes sense' (the screen moves up when you slide your finger upwards on the Magic Mouse), and yet on iOS devices they have forced their keyboard to display capital letters at all times, even though the user is typing in lower caps. How does that make sense, Apple? It might sound trivial, but after using an Android device for a while typing a message on an ALL CAPS keyboard is off-putting, and sub-optimal.

    IMO the best feature of apple products is the fact they control the software, hardware and therefore interface. When you start providing third party options for such a large part of the interface, such as the keyboard, you lose the dependability and universal qualities unique to the iPhone. Without such qualities, I might as well use a faster, cheaper alternative mobile phone.

    There is no going back to Android now...

    The only 2 things I missed from my Android was
    1. Bigger screen
    2. Swipe keyboard

    Now Apple has both :D

      I wouldn't be so hasty.

      I normally use SwiftKey on Android, and whilst it's great that I was just able to to install SwiftKey on my iPad, it's not quite the same experience. The iOS version is somewhat hobbled in that it doesn't allow a number row above the letters, and there's no press and hold option to rapidly access secondary characters. These are major aspects of what makes SwiftKey great. So I would make sure that your beloved Swipe Keyboard performs as desired before jumping ship back to iOS.

        still buggy, sometimes during the spotlight search, the keyboard didn't even come up....

        oh well it's their first version anyway, hopefully it will be fluid as the Android one.

          Yeah will probably take a few updates yet before things are running smoothly on iOS. I noticed with Swiftkey on my iPad that insertion of predicted words is very clunky. You type a couple of letters, then when you select the predicted word to insert the few typed letters are deleted, and then the entire predicted word is reinserted, but the process is somehow glitchy. Given that these keyboards are by third party developers I expect they should be refined fairly quickly.

      I think if iPhone 6 sized iPhones came out 2.5 years ago it would have been harder to leave iOS. However, now that the switch is made I would need special reasons to go back - switching ecosystem is painful, not least because you lose your apps. Just having them catch up on size and keyboard variety means they've caught up, not pulled enough ahead to drag me back. That's just me though.

        I did the switch to Android with Nexus 4 but it just not the same for me, then I came back to 5s.

        specially after they release a buggy 4.3 onwards. Twice with 4.3 and 4.4 that I had to do a factory reset and lose all my save data (mostly games :D)

    Has apple not had a 'text expander' system baked into iOS for a while? I thought that's what keyboard shortcuts was?

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