iOS8 was one of the most exciting updates Apple has yet offered from a developer perspective. A big reason for this is the update came with Extensibility, which enabled developers to extend functionality of apps into other important parts of the phone. One of those parts? The keyboard.
App developers can now build the custom keyboards you’ve always envisioned, while still experiencing the security benefits of iOS. This is because extensions run in the same sandbox as the apps they extend from but operate within separate containers. Basically – you get all the functionality you dream of yet maintain the privacy and security of the system Apple has become known for.
Now that developers can essentially replace the default, system-wide iOS keyboard with almost anything you can think of, we wanted to explore the possibilities that have been released so far.
For years Android users have enjoyed the Swype and SwiftKey keyboards, and both are now available on iPhone and iPad. While theses are two different keyboards, they are similar in function and benefit. The user begins both typing experiences by simply placing their finger on the first letter key of the word. Then without lifting a finger, they then slide to the next letters. A few more swipes like this and the Swype and/or SwiftKey will offer options for what is predicted to be the word, and the user then selects the intended word. Both keyboards get “smarter” with more use, as the predictive technology both feature starts recognizing frequently used words. The one big difference between the two is SwiftKey offers emojis, while Swype does not.
There’s no better way to express excitement than with a GIF of Stephen Colbert happy dancing. Gifmoji had the same opinion and created the solution for mobile comedians to express themselves through moving GIFs and slapstick emojis. The app comes with three different sections, the first being moving emojis.These are those familiar emojis texters have been using for years, except they perform the movements of blowing kisses or shaking heads from side to side. The second section is a collection of popular kaomoji, such as o/ or (-_-*), making these communications more easily accessible rather than typing them out. Finally is the best part of the app, the GIFs. These are complete with short 2-3 second expressions of popular actors and cartoons acting out full ranges of emotion such as flipping over tables or dancing in happiness. Your friends will not misunderstand your meaning again.
Most of the keyboards we’ve seen thus far focus on features like glittery emoji, predictive text or gesture typing. Stack took a different approach and focuses on an entirely different type of keyboard – by not even opening a keyboard at all. Instead, the area where a QWERTY keyboard usually appears simply displays a blank space, in which the user can draw letters. The keyboard is fast enough to recognize each letter that the user can write the letters on top of each other. This is a good option for those who don’t tend to like traditional keyboards and prefer drawing. We see this most likely being predominantly used on iPads with a stylus pan as opposed to on an iPhone, but the keyboard is available for both.
While messages usually must be typed in their entirety, the app developers who created TextExpander are making the ease that is the texting game even easier. With this keyboard new to iOS, users can access a database of commonly used abbreviations, which TextExpander will expand into full phrases or sentences. Such commands can include typing “TY” which TextExpander will translate into “Thank you very much!” This keyboard can also be customized with whatever abbreviations you commonly use and prefer.
Texting can be viewed as a lazier form of communication, in that it doesn’t require much of a greeting or a goodbye, and ideas can be conveyed in one simple line of text. This is much to the delight of the socially awkward or the plainly lazy. However the possibilities have now opened up in such a way that entrepreneurs filled with ideas and developers anxious to try something new, can now create new custom keyboards for the iOS audience.
Do you have a favorite iOS keyboard? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Or perhaps you have an idea for a new keyboard that hasn’t been released yet. We’ll be happy to help you get started.