iOS 8 vs. iPhone 4s Round Three: 3rd Party Keyboard Shootout, SwiftKey vs. Swype
3rd Party Keyboards on iOS, At Last!
In Round 2 of our competition we finally determined that the iPhone 4s was the big winner, being able to run and take advantage of enough of the features of iOS 8 to make the installation worthwhile, despite some significant and not unexpected downsides. The main downside is speed, as the older hardware, especially CPU and graphics chip, as well as less RAM (512 MB vs. 1 GB) are taxed by the new features. This leads to noticeable slowdowns in various places, such as apps opening and keyboards appearing. Nonetheless, new features such as 3rd party extensions, Notification Center widgets and third party keyboards outweigh these negatives, making the iOS 8 experience on the iPhone 4s still superior to that of the iOS 7 experience (which seemed fine at the time, of course).
In my last entry, I promised you a shootout between the two third party keyboards I’ve been using on my phone, SwiftKey & Swype, so here it is.
Installing 3rd Party Keyboards
Installing non-Apple keyboards is a bit of a process, but this is part of the whole sandboxing of the iOS system, designed to keep your device safe and secure. You have to specifically give the keyboard access across your device before you can use it; this sounds scary, but Apple actually did a pretty good job of letting you know what you were agreeing to and why, and so did SwiftKey and Swype. While there are several steps to the installation process, both keyboards walk you through the process quite well, and in a minute or so you should be up and running.
iOS no longer suffers from a dearth of 3rd party keyboards; there are regular replacement keyboards, emoji-only keyboards, and a huge variety of other keyboards. But I was most excited to get my hands on a keyboard that allowed swiping, or gesture-based typing: that is being able to glide your finger over the keyboard from letter to letter, instead of discreetly tapping on each letter.
As mentioned in previous posts, Android users have had this pretty much from the get-go, but for iOS users, it’s new with iOS 8 and 3rd party keyboards. Two of the big hitters on the Android side have long been SwiftKey & Swype, and they were two I was eager to try.
Being free at the release of iOS 8, SwiftKey was the first 3rd party keyboard I downloaded. While SwiftKey offers swiping, when I first tried right after iOS 8’s release, it simply didn’t work for me. Well, the function technically worked, but it almost never got the correct word and I found it was definitely faster for me to go back to typing the regular way. I did, however, stick with SwiftKey instead of the stock Apple keyboard because there were a few features I liked such as being able to press and hold on the period key to get a popup of common punctuation.
A month or so ago, however, SwiftKey was updated, and when I happened to check its swipe functionality, as I had been doing every once in awhile, lo and behold it worked! As far as I can tell, it works as well as Swype does (see below). It’s still my second choice between the two, but just barely. And because of iOS 8’s notorious bug of sometimes switching your keyboard back to Apple’s, and the fact that when manually switching between keyboard SwiftKey comes first alphabetically, I’m probably using it almost as much as Swype now.
In addition to the working swipe-typing and punctuation shortcuts, one of the things I like about Swype is the ability to type the name of an emoji (such as “smile”) and have it come up in the predictive text bar. This also happens if you happen to type a word that’s also an emoji. I like this feature, relatively insignificant as it is, and miss it when I’m using SwiftKey. In fact, I’ve become so used to Swype’s methods that I often use them in SwiftKey and then have to go back and correct myself.
The 3rd Party Keyboard Winner Is:
Well I haven’t really left much suspense. While SwiftKey’s updates have brought it very close, I still give the edge to Swype. While accuracy and speed are equivalent, the shortcuts I’ve become used to in Swype give it an edge for my uses. I no longer immediately switch out of SwiftKey when Apple forces me there (because I won’t use Apple’s keyboard for more than a word or two), but I feel more at home when I’m using Swype.
What’s Your Favorite Keyboard?
What keyboard(s) do you use, for iOS or Android, and why do you like them? Let me know in the comments.