As the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus go on sale today, many consumers will be getting their hands on Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 8, for the first time. And what are iOS 8 users downloading from the App Store? From the looks of things, it’s keyboards. That’s right — after years of strictly controlling the iOS user interface, Apple has opened things up. You can now replace the default iOS keyboard with that of your own choosing, including apps from popular keyboard makers like SwiftKey and Swype, the former which says it has now been downloaded 1 million times, and has become the No. 1 free app on the App Store.
These keyboard apps are burning up the App Store’s Top Charts, currently accounting for three out of the Top 5 Paid apps (No. 1 Swype; No. 2 Fleksy; No. 3 Color Keyboards), as well as three of the Top 5 Free apps (No. 1 SwiftKey; No. 2 CoolKey No. 3 Kiwi). And throughout the Top 20 in both charts, other keyboard apps can found, too.
There is one problem, however: Not all the apps iOS 8 users are downloading actually replace your keyboard. Despite the disclaimers in the apps’ descriptions explaining they are meant as standalone apps, some pseudo-keyboard apps are being downloaded, then slammed in the reviews as “rip-offs” and “scams.”
These fake keyboard apps have been around for some time now, hoping to capitalize on user demand for iOS customizations. They operate in a gray area along with apps that claim they can help you “pimp your homescreen,” change your lockscreen, install “live wallpaper,” or change your icons. Many of the apps, however, were never able to do what they led their users to believe — iOS was not built for customization, previously. At best, these apps offered an illusion of customization, but the iOS operating system itself was untouched.
Of course, users didn’t read the fine print, and continued to buy the apps in droves, regularly sending them into the top charts.
But now that iOS 8 does allow for customization – well, custom keyboards, that is – some of these fake keyboard apps are surfacing yet again. For example, No. 9 in the Top Free apps chart is “Pimp My Keyboard,” an app whose description reads: “Please Notice: Using this app you are able to edit the keyboard only within this application.”
In other words, it does not replace your keyboard.
Caveat Emptor: Before you download some new, color-changing, emoji-filled iOS keyboard app, make sure you know what you’re getting.
However, if you’re looking for some great new iOS 8 keyboards to try, TechCrunch has reviewed several, including SwiftKey, Fleksy, and ThemeBoard, for instance. and we also put together a gallery of some of our faves here.