For years, iPhone, iPod touch and iPad owners have cast the green eye of envy in the direction of Android users, whose relatively more open operating system allowed for all manner of customization, including the ability to swap out software keyboards at the tap of a button.
With the release of iOS 8, Apple has finally enabled third-party developers to do the same. Aside from a few notable limitations (no access to built-in dictation among them), iPhone users now have the freedom of choice, but how do you find the right fit?
We tapped away at ten of the best third-party keyboard apps to find out what each has to offer, and our fingers still had enough energy left to type up our thoughts on which ones are worthy of the download.
One of the most beloved Android keyboards finally comes to iOS, delivering the same great autocorrection and predictive typing capabilities in a long list of languages, not to mention the ability to type in up to two dialects at once for bilingual types.
Our biggest complaint is the absence of audible feedback: there's no satisfying click when tapping the keys, an option that can be turned on or off on the Android Lollipop version. Also, theme junkies are likely to be disappointed by the lack of choices, since there's currently no way to buy others.
Download this if... You're making the switch from Android
Avoid this if... You like a lot of custom themes or noisy keys
TextExpander has saved us thousands of keystrokes on OS X Yosemite by abbreviating commonly typed words into easy-to-remember shortcuts that expand like magic when entered. The iOS version does the same for frequently entered greetings, email signatures and more, tapping into Dropbox to keep snippets synced with the desktop.
One of our favorite TextExpander 3 features: the keyboard properly displays upper and lowercase letters, something Apple's built-in keyboard still hasn't managed to do after all these years. The keys are a little on the small side for our thick fingers, but otherwise this a flexible keyboard app worthy of a look.
Download this if... You want to save keystrokes with shortcuts
Avoid this if... You're on Windows or don't like smaller keys
And rightfully so: there's exhaustive support for tons of languages (including emoji for six of them), a variety of keyboard layouts (QWERTY, QWERTZ and AZERTY) and the ability to add or remove words from a personal dictionary.
Swype is also among the more customizable keyboard apps with five included themes, and a wide range of other colorful options available via in-app purchase. Of course, predictive typing is a given, and should you choose to tap on the keys instead, you'll get that satisfying click - along with the option to disable it in settings, should you prefer.
Download this if... You believe "hunt and peck" are three dirty words
Avoid this if... You'd rather type than swipe
It's hard to imagine any other keyboard app offering such an exhaustive selection of digits to fit nearly every taste or style, and we weren't able to find a lemon in the group. A built-in Emoji Bar makes Themeboard even more useful without having to switch to a dedicated emoji keyboard when the need arises.
Themeboard hasn't overlooked the details, like three-speed quick delete which accelerates the longer the key is held down, and the ability to import shortcuts from Apple's own keyboard. With so many choices, there's bound to be something for everyone here.
Avoid this if... You already spend too much on in-app purchases.
Clipped content can include text or images, and the Clips keyboard can even be used to filter which type of data gets pasted. For example, copied web links can be pasted as just a URL or as plain text with the title of the linked page, making Clips a pretty functional little utility for all your clipboard needs.
With a $1.99 in-app upgrade to the Pro version, Clips can even sync an unlimited amount of clipboard content across multiple iOS devices. And yes, before you ask, Clips also includes an actual keyboard, although the app is probably best used by switching between your favorite set of keys as needed.
Download this if... Your friends call you "Cut & Paste."
Avoid this if... You liked iOS better without copy & paste.
Best iPhone keyboard apps #6 - 10
There are currently five Fleksy Extensions, with three available free. GIF Keyboard allows users to swipe up on the top row to send animated image files to friends, while Cursor Control adds the ability to long press on the spacebar to move the cursor left or right.
Users can also type with one hand (a good option for iPhone 6 owners), add a row of numbers above the keyboard or make keys pop like the rainbow. The app also offers more than 30 themes (some based on hit movies like Frozen), more than 800 emoji, and rich support for languages and autocorrect.
Avoid this if... Your life is already complicated enough.
With names like Hanx Prime Select, Hanx 707 and Hanx Golden Touch, Hanx Writer may seem like a clever gimmick to pay for a thespian's summer cottage, but for those who first learned to type on an old manual typewriter, it's a whole lot of fun and definitely stands out in a crowded market.
Besides, how many keyboard apps include an honest-to-goodness word processor that rekindles memories of a bygone era at the same time? Sure, the keys may be a little cramped even on a spacious iPhone 6 Plus display, but this adorable app is priceless.
Download this if... You love nostalgia, and/or Tom Hanks.
Avoid this if... Retro really isn't your thing.
First up we've got TouchPal Curve technology, which is the developers' fancy way of saying users can slide their finger across letters to form complete words. Slide up for numbers, down for symbols and left to backspace over a whole word at once.
But TouchPal is about more than just gestures: Award-winning predictive typing, plenty of color themes, rich emoji and language support round out the package, and where else can you customize a keyboard with gaudy fonts like Marker Felt?
Download this if... You want the complete package in one free app.
Avoid this if... You need more than six core languages.
One of the more bizarre third-party keyboard apps we've run across, GIF Keyboard allows iOS device owners to search millions of GIFs across the internet, then send them using any app you'd like, right from the keyboard.
GIF Keyboard supports all of the most popular messaging and social networking apps including iMessage, Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, and GIF files you discover while using the Safari mobile browser can even be saved to the keyboard using the Share extension. Users can even create entire collections of your favorites, and sync them across devices.
Download this if... You just can't get enough GIF in your life.
Avoid this if... The mere mention of the word "GIF" sends chills down your spine.
What really makes Minuum unique is a slick one-handed mode that can be used by righties or lefties alike, along with the ability to temporarily collapse the keyboard into a surprisingly usable "mini" mode with the flick of a finger. It's a pretty slick feature that makes Minuum stand out in the crowd. On the downside, this is the only keyboard app on this list that doesn't feature native iPad support.
Of course, the usual complement of swipe gestures, keyboard sounds, punctuation shortcuts and automatic capitalization are also on hand, and if you're the kind of user who would prefer not to be bothered by autocorrect, Minuum also offers the ability to turn it off completely.
Download this if... You want the maximum available typing space.
Avoid this if... You have an aversion to paying for quality keyboard apps.