iOS 8 marks the first time that third-party keyboards are available on Apple’s mobile operating system, and developers have wasted no time offering up keyboards that optimize swipe gestures, word recognition and suggestion, and slick new designs.
Apple’s own iOS 8 keyboard features QuickType, the predictive text system that gives you word suggestions before and during messaging, as well as dedicated buttons for cut, copy, and paste on the larger screens now available with the iPhone 6. Still, if the improvements in Apple’s own iOS 8 keyboard aren’t enough, there’s no shortage of options available.
TouchPal’s gotten a lot of hype for it’s iOS 8 keyboard long before its launch. Again, having already garnered a huge following with its Android app, TouchPal doesn’t look much different from the stock iOS keyboard, but it actually works in a very different way: it’s the first iOS keyboard to offer slide-input, letting you run your fingers across the keys instead of pressing them. Not only that, it also has sentence gesture technology, which means that it does the same thing with sentences. It’s also included an easy swipe function to access numbers and symbols with a swipe up or down, respectively.
Similar to Fleksy, it has contextual input, learning from what you’ve typed before to make things move along quicker, and a walkie-talkie feature for voice input. Check out the video below for a quick demo of TouchPal for iPhone.
Download TouchPal for iOS 8
Already a super popular app with Android users, SwiftKey has found its way onto the iPhone thanks to iOS 8. The huge advantage of SwiftKey, the predictive keyboard, has already been integrated with the native iOS 8 keyboard app in the form of QuickType, but that doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause for the popular keyboard app.
Custom themes are a big selling point for SwiftKey, as is emoji prediction (on top of personalized prediction) with over 800 to choose from, and the cool multilingual function feature, which gives simultaneous predictions in three languages at once. Having switched its Android app from a premium to a freemium model in anticipation of iOS 8 is the icing on the cake.
Download SwiftKey for iOS 8
One of the original swipe keyboards for Android now has a version for iOS 8. Swype’s known for its namesake function, a swipe-gesture keyboard that makes typing a lot quicker and smoother. The interface may not be as nice as Flesky or TouchPal, but it offers a lot of the same features, including voice input, multilingual support (only two languages), and what it calls a ‘personal language model,’ which again, uses your history of texting to predict what you might type next.
As with the new native iOS 8 keyboard, it’s also got functions to quickly copy and paste text.
Download Swype for iOS 8
Fleksy advertises itself as both the first third-party keyboard for iOS 8, as well as the ‘Fastest Keyboard in the World.’ Having first landed on Android, Fleksy’s speed is countered with plenty of additional features: 600 emojis, colorful themes, and multiple language and keyboard support, not to mention an option which lets you hide the keyboard for full screen optimization.
What helps makes it super fast is the ability to swipe left to delete letters or words – instead of endlessly pushing backspace – and a very smart auto-correct system.
Another notable feature is what’s known as cloud personalization, meaning that the keyboard will learn your writing style based on synced social media and email accounts. It’s not free though– it’ll cost you $0.99 in the App Store.
Download Fleksy for iOS 8
As far as bells and whistles go, Slated only has one, but it’s worth it if it’s a service you need: in-text translation. With support for 80 languages, you can start texting in your native language, and a bar underneath the text will simultaneously show the translation in the language of your choice. Simply tap on the translation once its done and it’ll sub into your text immediately. Messages sent from your friends in another language can be translated too.
I asked my German colleague if the translation was any good, and he said it was understandable, but not perfect.
It might seem like a bit of a novelty considering the odds of you having to text someone in a language you don’t know are slim, but there are definitely instances where this keyboard will come in handy. Aside from this unique function, it’s actually a pretty plain keyboard without many customization options. Again, this one will run you up $4.99.
Customization vs. convenience
The new iOS 8 keyboard, while updated with new features, still doesn’t offer as much customization or convenience as some of the third-party keyboards that’ll soon be available for iOS 8. If you’re interested in speeding up or spicing up your texting, check out what are sure to be some of the leading keyboard alternatives for iOS 8.
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Original article published September 9th, 2014.