Need a keyboard change? Desperately wishing you could swipe-to-type? We've got you covered!
The built-in iPhone keyboard is, for the most part, fine. But no one keyboard can be all things to all typists. Sometimes we need or want a change. Different colors, swiping to type, animated GIF, custom emoji—that's where third-party keyboards come in. And we've got a list of our favorites!
SwiftKey has a fantastic predictive type function. It learns what words and phrases you tend to say and offers suggestions so you can type less. Its best feature is the Flow function, which lets you swipe to type. It works great and is very accurate. You can change from dark to light themes, and for a few dollars more, you can unlock a wide variety of bright colors. Plus, you can quickly switch to the emoji keyboard or select a second language without having to go into the settings section.
If swiping to type is your main priority, SwiftKey does it right.
Microsoft's Word Flow keyboard has a unique sideways option, which makes typing with one hand pretty awesome. You can use the standard position, or switch to left side typing or right side typing. It also has a swipe-to-type feature, but that still needs a bit of work.
You can customize Word Flow with one of about a half-dozen themes, or you can add your own background image to personalize your look. Not only can you add your own image, but you can further customize the keyboard by changing the color of the toolbar, letters, and swipe.
Word Flow takes some getting used to. The keys are set up QWERTY style, but it is awkward at first to type in a half circle. It does get easier with practice, though.
If you are a one-handed typer, Word Flow will keep your thumb muscles from cramping up.
Flesky is all about expressing yourself in text. It has a button at the top that lets you turn the entire keyboard into stickers and smiley faces. Or, if you are more into animated expressions, you can switch to a GIF keyboard.
There are keyboard tool extensions you can add, like the on-screen cursor, a fourth row for numbers, or the ability to make hearts appear whenever you type. There are dozens of theme packs, so you can change your keyboard more often than you change your socks.
If you use emojis or GIFS to express yourself more often than you type, Flesky will make you :).
Do we really need to see every single letter we want to type? The makers of Minuum say "no." You can squish down your keyboard, accordian style, and type with just a single row. That's right, one single row. How does it work? Predictive typing. The keyboard makes a guess on the word you are trying to type by what area of the keyboard you are touching. It's very similar to swipe-to-type technology, but with groups of letters, instead. It also has two very useful keyboard gestures. You can swipe across the keys to the right to space, or to the left to delete.
You can choose from dozens of colorful themes, including flags of the world, and the emoji bar that sits at the top gives you quick access to any expression you want.
Minuum takes a lot of getting used to. It doesn't follow any standard keyboard layout, so you will be hunting for the right letter at first. It almost gave me a headache when I first started using it, but I quickly got used to it and now can type pretty fast with the single row of keys.
If you like keeping the keyboard out of the way, but still want to type, give Minuum a try.
If you use TextExpander on your Mac, you should definitely pick up the free TextExpander + Keyboard app for your iPhone. But, if you don't use it on the Mac, you can still take advantage of the amazing functionality that the service provides on your iPhone with the paid version. The only difference is that the free version must be used in conjunction with the Mac app.
With TextExpander 3, you can populate snippets of text - phrases, addresses, even full paragraphs - with just a couple of letters. All you have to do is enter what you want a snippet to read, like an address or string of code. Then, set an abbreviation that is at least two letters long to represent the snippet. Then, whenever you type that abbreviation using the TextExpander keyboard, it will automatically enter that snippet.
If you type the same sentences over and over again fairly regularly, like your email address or how to get to your office, TextExpander 3 will make your life a little bit easier.
With Slash, you can /type just about /any word after using the /slash key and get direct access to dozens of services. Then, when you tap on the link that you want, you can share it with others. How many times have you seen an article in the New York Times and wanted to text it to a friend, or knew that a playlist on Spotify would brighten your boss' day? With Slash, you can do all of that without even having to switch out of your messaging app.
You can also share videos from YouTube, music tracks from iTunes, and pictures directly from your Photos app. If you like sharing a specific link a lot (like maybe, the iMore home screen) you can create custom Slashes.
If you like sharing stuff you discover on the Internet with others, Slash makes it happen one step faster.
Google does one thing, really, really good, and that's search for stuff. How would you like to have all of Google's amazing searching abilities right at your fingertips, every time you type? That's what Gboard is. The keyboard itself is fine, nothing to write home about, but there is a small Google button at the top that lets you open a search bar. You can look for anything you would look for on Google. Want to know how old Dick Van Dyke is? No problem. Wonder who won last night's game? You can find out without having to leave whatever you are typing. If you allow location identification, you can even search for nearby restaurants or get the local weather.
When you find what you want, you can share a link to it with others. So, if your brother doesn't believe you that Power Rangers is getting remade, you can quickly find and share a link to the website you read it on without having to track it down in Safari.
If you like proving that you are right all of the time by sharing what you read online, Gboard will make you the smartest person alive.
Srsly?! Do you even Bitmoji? Because you should. You can create your personal avatar, complete with perfect hair, eyes, and smile, and then outfit it with your own style. Then, put the Bitmoji keyboard in your secondary slot and make everyone smile with your clever, 1990s style emoticon stickers.
Bitmoji illustrations are updated regularly. So, you can send your dad a special message on Father's day, or dress your avatar like Batman to invite your buddy to the movies.
If you really want to make your friends smile (or irritate them because you send Bitmoji stickers way, way to often), get the Bitmoji Keyboard. You won't regret it (but your co-workers might).