iOS 8 is here! Wait, we already said that in our last article. Okay, so let’s start talking more and more about it. One of the biggest advances in iOS 8 are not at the cosmetic level, it is at the developer’s end, which come back on a cosmetic level. Now the environment is a little more open and to that end, there will be support for custom keyboards (amongst other things, check out our review). Predictive text is the weapon of choice for the legend of Android SwiftKey which steps foot into the battleground of iOS, armed with swipe-to-type functionality. Read on to find out how it fared.
SwiftKey had been gaining traction amongst select beta users and it was touted to be ready as soon as iOS was (so were a few others, as well as Swype). The first thought when turning on Swiftkey is a moment of quiet contemplation, because you know this is a step towards something bigger, perhaps a unified operating system (it could happen some day) or perhaps more realistically, an even more open iOS, who knows?
If you have used Swiftkey on Android, then your only task is to configure it for iOS 8, which is a different procedure, but after that, it is the same utility.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Swiftkey, it is a keyboard that learns as you type. It reads your social media feeds, your messages and determines your phrasing and sentence structure and it adapts very quickly. It even features a Swype like functionality called Flow where you can scroll over keys to input your intended content. It has been a significant part of the Android experience ever since it became free, with users opting for this over the default keyboard.
Before we talk about how it works, let us tell you how to configure it. The process is simple. Download the app (link below). Launch SwiftKey and you will be greeted with a welcome window. The following screen will show you an activation process, which is simple.
Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard > SwiftKey
Now, you have activated SwiftKey, however, its function will be somewhat limited until you grant it full access. To do so, go to the same Keyboards settings as above, tap SwiftKey – SwiftKey and turn on Allow Full Access. Now you are ready to take it for a spin.
Whenever you want to type something, your default keyboard will show up, tap the globe icon on the lower left corner of the screen and your SwiftKey keyboard should show up. If you have multiple keyboards installed, then keep tapping the globe until you see the SwiftKey keyboard.
In order to let SwiftKey really learn from you, go to SwiftKey > SwiftKey Cloud > Personalization and allow access to the listed feeds. It will learn from these feeds (it will not post to your social media) and will be better equipped to predict your input.
As for the keyboard itself. It is a very well designed keyboard, keeping in mind that people will probably not welcome a new layout with welcoming arms, to that end, they have kept their design very close to the original iOS’. You have the option to select between a dark and light theme, but that is all for now. It does not look much like its Android version, moreover the colorful and catchy themes from Android are currently missing as well. I presume that is going to be part of a premium feature or perhaps a later upgrade that kicks in as people slowly adapt to the new keyboard.
It features the option to link to other devices as well, so if you are a long time SwiftKey user, you can immediately import your settings and get started immediately.
Now, the big deal here is not the keyboard itself it is the ability to side your fingers across the keys and deliver input. Something started by Swype back in 2009 on the Samsung Omnia II (Windows Mobile 6.1). SwiftKey call it Flow. You can configure flow on or off, but keeping it on does not mean you cannot type regularly. Keep in mind that accuracy is not a 100% guarantee when it comes to this kind of technology so you can expect the errant entry every now and again, but it is usually on the up and up.
Whether or not SwiftKey will completely replace the iOS keyboard, or perhaps something else will come along later and replace them all, is not yet known. What we do know is that SwiftKey is very efficient and quite advanced. It is something you should definitely include on a list of things to try on your new iOS 8. I know I will.
Get SwiftKey for iOS (free)