With the launch of iOS 8, Apple has introduced the ability to add third party keyboards to your iPhone and iPad. If you've got tired of the Apple keyboard compared to what your Android brothers and sisters use, now might be a good time to change it.
That's what Swiftkey, the makers of the number one keyboard app in Google Play, is hoping with the launch of a dedicated iPhone app for your newly updated iPhones and iPads, but with so many keyboards flooding the market are they the best choice?
Setup is simple, but also a bit of a faff, but then that seems to be the case with all the iOS 8 keyboards we've tried so far. First you download the app, then log in via Facebook or Google Plus. You then have to turn the keyboard on and this is done by going into Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards.
iOS 8 allows for a number of keyboards to be set from Emoji to French and adding Swiftkey into the mix is no different. Unlike Android you can't set Swiftkey keyboard as the only one, but that does mean you can easily switch back to Apple's default keyboard at a moments notice, or even to a competitors keyboard if you want too. Settings are managed via the app and the Facebook login automatically pulls in all your details if you've already had a Swiftkey account at some point in the past. You Android traitor you.
Where did it go?
The new keyboard slots into place and is accessed via the globe logo on the standard Apple keyboard replacing it on the screen. This approach is both good and bad. Good because it allows you to revert back at any point, bad because a miss tap of the spacebar (next to that globe logo) and you quickly taken back to the original Apple keyboard wondering what's happened.
This move isn't Swiftkey's fault, rather Apple's, and because you can't lock the new keyboard to be the default you'll find you keep "losing" the Swiftkey keyboard. The same happens when you switch to a secondary keyboard like the new Apple Emoji keyboard. Once you've done your smiley face you are pushed back to Apple's keyboard not Swiftkeys and you then go through the pressing the Globe button experience once again.
For the most part the Swiftkey keyboard looks very much the same aside from some slight graphical changes. There are two colour themes: Nickel Dark and Nickel Light with the former likely to shock as most iPhone users have never seen a dark keyboard before.
Like the Android version the company is famous for, as soon as you start typing the app will learn what you type and you can give the system a little further help by letting Swiftkey have access to your Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, Contacts, and Gmail accounts to better learn how you type. The more access you give it the better it becomes, but it's also worth noting that you are sharing a lot of data with a private company.
In the app and the moment you do start typing suggestions will start appearing in three boxes above the keyboard. There are three main ways to type. The first is to just bash at the keys, and on this front Swiftkey is very good autocorrecting words as you go, and adding in spaces to five words at a time in some cases.
The second is to jump between typing and selecting autosuggested words above the keys. The more you do it the better the suggestions become and it's idea for saving you typing long words.
Probably the biggest exciting element for most though will be the ability to swipe your way around the keyboard to spell out words. Available on the iPhone keyboard (iPad doesn't support it) the idea is that you swirl your finger across the keyboard to spell out a word and the keyboard is good enough to manage.
Those new to the experience will find it takes a little bit of time to get used to and it helps if you know how to spell, as a slight slip of the finger can create a very different word.
The ability to use a combination of all three however, is very welcomed.
The Swiftkey Keyboard is good, but not perfect, mainly due in part to the parameters the company has to work with. You don't get access to the dictate button in the Swiftkey keyboard for example, and you can't use the keyboard to launch apps like you can in Android.
You also don't get the swiping swirling control on the iPad version, and it's all too easy to switch back to the Apple default keyboard either by mistake (the button is next to the spacebar) or when you've used another keyboard for an Emoji.
Swype on the other hand while also not having access to the Apple Dictate feature has avoided the accidental press of the globe icon by moving (hiding) it under another key so you don't get an accidental press.
Then there is the security concerns, that Apple is only too keen to point out that everything you type is being stored and collected elsewhere, and while Swiftkey assures us that the data is safe and heavily encrypted, it is still a factor to consider.
Once set up, the Swiftkey keyboard is really easy to use and will really speed up typing on your iPhone keyboard whether you are using the auto correct, auto suggest, or swiping elements thanks to the intelligence it has in understanding what you are trying to type - far better than Swype for example.
However the experience isn't as fluid and simple to use as it is on Android and that will leave many confused at times as to what they are using, especially if that globe key is pressed.
It is a good first stab from the company, but you will find it frustrating at times, something we are sure even Swiftkey is frustrated about.
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