3 iOS Keyboard Apps Created by Apple's Rivals, Microsoft and Google
Article by George Norman
On 13 May 2016
For a long time, iOS users were stuck with the default iPhone keyboard. Things changed with the release of iOS 8 in 2014 though. Apple gave developers the go-ahead to start creating keyboard apps and it gave iPhone users the opportunity to choose between staying with the default keyboard or installing a 3rd party keyboard app.

Lots of developers have rolled out keyboard apps since then, including Apple’s longtime competitor, Microsoft. Google didn’t let such an opportunity slip through its fingers either. Both these companies have released keyboard apps for iOS, and I can certainly see why they’re an interesting alternative to the iPhone’s default keyboard.


1. Word Flow is great for one-handed typing

Microsoft’s Word Flow keyboard predicts what you’re trying to type so you can get things done faster, it corrects spelling mistakes so you don’t sound like a fool, and it lets you put a custom image in the background, either one of your own images or one of the images that are included in the app.

But I don’t care about any of these features. You see, the best thing about Word Flow is the "Arc mode" that makes it incredibly easy to type with just one hand. Enable this Arc mode and the keyboard changes its shape, going from straight to round, which is great for easy, ergonomic one-handed typing.

The Word Flow app is available for free on Apple’s App Store.

Please note that, at least for now, Word Flow is available in the US only.

2. Hub Keyboard can access data from other apps

It’s worth pointing out that Word Flow is the second keyboard app that Microsoft released. The first was Hub Keyboard, which was released shortly after Microsoft acquired SwiftKey.

The most interesting thing about Hub Keyboard is that it "lets you stay in context," meaning you won’t have to leave the app to find the information you want. Hub Keyboard can access data from other apps, such as: previously copied texts, Office 365 documents in OneDrive and SharePoint, contacts in your phone or Office 365 account.

On top of that, Hub Keyboard can translate text from one language to another.

Hub Keyboard is available for free on Apple’s App Store and on Google Play.

Hub Keyboard for iOS is available in the US only. Hub Keyboard for Android is available in English for Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, UK, and US.

Please note that Hub Keyboard can access Office 365 documents in OneDrive and SharePoint only if you have a work, school, or university Office 365 account. This feature doesn’t work with Office 365 Home or Personal.

Both these keyboard apps, Hub Keyboard as well as Word Flow, are Microsoft Garage projects. Which brings up the question...

What is The Microsoft Garage?

The Garage is where Microsoft employees turn fresh ideas into real projects. It is Microsoft’s 24-hour idea factory and haven for über geeks, a sanctuary for creativity, a protected habitat for Microsoft employees and their wild ideas.

Go and check out the Garage Workbench to see what ideas have been turned into a Garage project.

3. Gboard has built-in Google search functionality

Remember how Microsoft’s Hub Keyboard "lets you stay in context" because it can access data from other apps? Google’s new Gboard does something similar. Just like Microsoft, Google is aware that you don’t like to switch between apps. Consequently, its new keyboard app has Google Search built in.

"With Gboard, you can search and send all kinds of things—restaurant info, flight times, news articles [emojis, GIFs]—right from your keyboard," Principal Engineer Rajan Patel explained. "Anything you’d search on Google, you can search with Gboard. Results appear as cards with the key information front and center, such as the phone number, ratings and hours. With one tap, you can send it to your friend and you keep the conversation going.”

Gboard has one other interesting feature: Glide Typing. Thanks to this feature, you can type just by sliding your finger from letter to letter. That’s sure to help you type messages a lot faster.

Gboard is available for free on Apple’s App Store.

For now, it is available just in the US in English, with more languages to come.

Tags: keyboard, Apple, iOS, Microsoft, The Garage, The Microsoft Garage, Word Flow, Hub Keyboard, Google, Gboard
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
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3 iOS Keyboard Apps Created by Apple's Rivals, Microsoft and Google
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