Quick Look: SwiftKey for iOS

Posted on February 3, 2016 by Paul Thurrott in iOS with 0 Comments

Quick Look: SwiftKey for iOS

As you may have seen, Microsoft revealed that it has purchased SwiftKey and will, over time, integrate this software-based keyboard technology with its own WordFlow efforts. I look forward to that future, but for now, let’s take a quick look at how SwiftKey works today.

Initial SwiftKey setup isn’t all that simple thanks to limitations in iOS. That is, you can’t just run the app and change the software keyboard. Instead, the app provides instructions on where to navigate to in iOS Settings so that you can make the change manually. And there are 8 steps. Yes, really.

steps

actually, there are more than 8 steps. After you do all that, you return to the SwiftKey app, and it then guides you to making the actual change.

not-done-yet

(You can also optionally sign-in via Facebook or Google—something tells me thatwill be changing soon enough—though it’s not yet clear to me why you’d do that. Perhaps to sync settings to new phones?)

While a superior typing experience is presumably SwiftKey’s raison d’etre, one thing I was vaguely aware of is that the app also provides a fully-customizable user interface. Meaning keyboard skins. Meaning, yes, in-app purchases. So this is the business model, which is certainly fair enough. But I wonder if Microsoft just removes the paid keyboards and makes it all free. (Some keyboards are of course free too.)

PAID

Forgoing the skins for now I wanted to see how different the SwiftKey keyboard was from the default iOS keyboard, which I loathe. Here’s the default iOS keyboard:

ios-kb

And, for a quick visual comparison, the default SwiftKey keyboard.

swiftkey

The thing I really find despicable while typing on iOS is auto-correct, and adaptive typing—the ability to adapt to how you type—is of course a key feature of this app, so I’m very curious to see how that goes over time.

In just a short bit of usage, I’ve already seen some nice improvements over the default keyboard, however. The biggest change, of course, is the simple and obvious addition of punctuation to normal view, which I miss regularly on the default iOS keyboard. (This isn’t an issue on Android. Or Windows phone for that matter.) And there are nice pop-ups to help make the keyboard smarter.

predict

SwiftKey supports all the expected functionality, including a “flow” usage model where you trace your finger from key to key across the screen to form words. (I’ve never been any good at that, but my wife relies on it, like many.) I think it’s time I made a change. This looks really solid.

 

Tagged with