When iOS 8 hits this fall, iPhone, iPad and iPod touch owners will be greeted with a new virtual keyboard that may just be able to finish their sentences for them. The new QuickType keyboard, which was revealed today at WWDC, predicts what you might type next based on the context of the sentence and also learns your typing style. But it won’t be your only choice in keyboards.
Apple’s Craig Federighi revealed later in the keynote address that iOS users will also be able to install and use third-party keyboard apps like SwiftKey and Swype. Both apps have been popular with Android users for years, as they not only include the predictive text capabilities but also a quicker method of typing by letting you drag your finger from letter to letter in one continuous motion to spell out words, rather than pecking at the keys. I know it sounds weird, but it actually works.
SwiftKey and Swype both praised Apple’s decision to open up its platform to third-party developers.
“I think it’s obviously a wonderful day for anyone who wants to be productive and use iOS devices,” said Joe Braidwood, chief marketing officer for SwiftKey. “We believe we’ve built a great product that’s made it easier to type on touchscreens, and we’ve got a great community of Android users to prove it. We can’t wait to extend that to iOS. Ultimately, it means people have more choice, and we’re very excited about that.”
SwiftKey said it’s already working on an iOS app, and hopes to bring it out as soon as possible. The company is also looking to bring all of the features available on its Android app, which includes SwiftKey Cloud for backing up and syncing your personal predictions so it doesn’t have to relearn all your habits when you switch devices, to the iOS version.
The SwiftKey keyboard is available now on iOS in a limited function through its note-taking app, SwiftKey Note, which was released in late January. Braidwood said it has been well received and had a million downloads in the first month.
Swype will also be joining the iOS party with its own app.
Similar to SwiftKey, Swype offers one-handed typing via continuous input and backup and syncing. But Aaron Sheedy, vice president of product marketing at Swype, touts the keyboard’s accuracy as one of the app’s best features.
“Not surprisingly, I couldn’t be more excited to bring Swype to iOS users,” said Sheedy in a phone interview. “Our keyboard has been deployed on a billion devices across the world over the last five years, and that’s allowed us to build up a great language model, not only using our own technology, but also learning from our users, so our accuracy is quite good.”
Swype also uses crowdsourcing to update the keyboard’s dictionary with the latest trending words (SwiftKey does this, too), so you don’t have to teach it yourself. Sheedy said the company is going to do everything it can to bring all of Swype’s features to the iOS app at launch.
Swype says it has more than 250 million users, while SwiftKey says its keyboard is on more than 200 million devices to date. As to whether iOS users will go for Apple’s QuickType keyboard or one these third-party solutions? Well, for now, that’s hard to predict.
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