Nine Alternative Keyboards For iOS 8

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Nine Alternative Keyboards For iOS 8

Apple’s new mobile world order, iOS 8, ushers in support for third party system wide keyboards for the very first time. Which means a tsunami of keyboard makers are right now rushing at the platform hoping to mine gold in them thar hills. We’ve rounded up a selection of alt keyboard contenders — some with storied histories already on the Android platform, others hoping for their first break on iOS…

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iOS 8's keyboard now open for business…

iOS users can finally tap into alternative keyboard software. Although you’d be forgiven for not changing from the stock Apple keyboard (pictured left) — given that Cupertino has buried the switch for enabling alternatives deep within settings. It has also given the stock iOS keyboard some TLC, adding a word prediction feature called Quick Type. This draws inspiration from various third party keyboard software makers by offering a trio of next-word suggestions above the Qwerty keyboard to speed up typing. So now you can just tap on a suggested word to type it…

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SwiftKey for iOS

If you do want to swap the stock iOS keyboard for something not made in Cupertino there’s plenty of alternatives to choose from. UK-made predictive keyboard maker SwiftKey is among the first to launch its software on iOS. Like Apple, SwiftKey’s keyboard offers a trio of word predictions positioned above the keyboard as you type. But of course it claims its word prediction engine is superior to Apple’s. As well it might, given SwiftKey has had skin in the game since 2008, and currently has more than 200 million active devices using its machine learning software. The SwiftKey predictive engine learns how you write and adapts its predictions to your syntax and slang. A cloud profile feature that lets you connect it with your Facebook and Google accounts so it learns more about your language use, to generate better predictions.

SwiftKey will be hoping to add significantly to its active device tally now that it’s available on iOS, especially given that its iOS app is free.

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SwiftKey Flow

SwiftKey’s keyboard also supports the finger-dragging input method that users of other smartphone platforms have been relishing for years — so, instead of tapping, you can slide your finger from letter to letter to form words. It’s not necessarily the quickest way to type but it can be pretty satisfying to squiggle out your name. SwiftKey’s app also includes a choice of two keyboard themes at launch: light or dark.

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Swype style

Another keyboard maker that’s carved a significant profile for itself on Android is Swype, now owned by Nuance. The Swype app is also here at the start of iOS 8. Swype offered a finger-dragging input method before SwiftKey (it calls this ‘Swyping’). It also does next word predictions which learn from your usage. And its iOS app includes a larger choice of customizable keyboard themes than SwiftKey. However it is charging for the app: currently on discount offer for $0.99.

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Fleksy the flexible

And then we come to Fleksy — a keyboard brimming with confidence in its ability to understand what you meant to type, not what you actually typed. So it’s done away with boundaries between letters. Sloppy typing is positively encouraged here. (On Android, Fleksy even has an entirely invisible keyboard mode.) In addition to an ultra enthusiastic auto-correct algorithm, Fleksy’s keyboard supports gestures for selecting an alternative word spelling, or deleting mistyped words. And it lays claim to typing speed records. The keyboard can also be customized in size and color. The app is currently priced at $0.99.

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Minuum the minuscule

Minuum also relies on a robust auto-correct algorithm but its party trick is the ability to squash the Qwerty layout into a little bar at the bottom of the screen so that it takes up less space. Less Qwerty on screen obviously means more proper content hitting your eyeballs… but at a price. Minuum’s iOS app is currently priced at a (discounted) $1.99.

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TouchPal puts emoji on tap

Shanghai-based TouchPal does word prediction, supports the swiping input method, offers a choice of keyboard themes, and has a shortcut key to summon emoji.

Its just launched iOS 8 app is currently free. Whether its word prediction engine is as good as SwiftKey and Swype is up for debate though.

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Keymoji suggests emoji

There are a swathe of emoji-focused keyboards launched already for iOS 8, including Keymoji — which suggests emoji or combinations of emoji as you type (complete with a textual translation beneath — in case you were wondering what a particular emoji cocktail is supposed to mean). It’s a free app. And is about as annoying to use as it sounds.

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PopKey wants you to say it with GIFs

And then there is PopKey… Or, at least, there might be if Apple approves its app. Apple may very well not do that though, in the interests of preserving its users’ sanity. Because PopKey is a keyboard with a GIF shortcut feature — encouraging users to toggle from typing a missive to spicing up said missive via an animated GIF selector. Basically this keyboard wants you to say it with someone else’s gurning face. That, my friends, is what they call ‘progress’… The app, should it actually make it onto the App Store, will apparently be free.

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ScribbleKey prefers pictures

Another iOS 8 keyboard app that’s aiming to make it onto Apple’s store is ScribbleKey. As the name suggests, this one has a thing for pictures. The keyboard lets you toggle between boring old Qwerty keys and a pixel-painting interface. Here you can pick colors and pens and make your feelings known with scribbles. Or play Pictionary.

ScribbleKey is listed as coming in September, as a free download. Free will get you five colors. Additional shades are an in-app purchase, costing $0.99 per color pack.

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Stack does handwriting recognition

The free MyScript — Stack keyboard app for iOS 8 supports a more utilitarian type of scribbling by letting users draw letters or characters on the screen then transcribing them into text above. This is a feature that’s most likely to be useful for inputting character-based/logographic languages such as Chinese or Japanese. The app supports 58 languages in character by character mode.

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