SwiftKey

If Apple opens up to third-party keyboards, it could allow the iPhone to borrow one of Android's top features

With Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) kicking off next week in San Francisco, speculation is rampant that popular third-party keyboard makers on Android may be courted over to that other ecosystem if Cupertino opens up a proper keyboard API. Following Apple CEO Tim Cook's statements at the recent D11 conference, and a follow-up this week from All Things D, the time might be right for Apple to open up just a tiny bit, and finally allow developers write keyboard apps for the iPhone and iPad.

Of all the popular keyboards for Android, few are as recognizable as SwiftKey -- and if speculation is correct it may be one of the first to make its way onto Apple's platform, given the opportunity. SwiftKey is excited about the proposition of third-party keyboards on iOS, naturally, as it's a huge potential growth area. If you've ever used SwiftKey you may be pleased to see more people having access to a such great piece of software, but what could the availability of third-party keyboards on iOS mean for their Android equivalents?

We've seen it time and time again -- many major apps are released on iOS first. We like to blame it on all sorts of things, but when it comes down to it developers have limited budgets and limited hours to devote to creating and maintaining apps. When developing an app that could theoretically work just fine on any platform, they often have to make a choice to develop for just one initially. The less varied hardware and software of iOS makes it an ideal target.

When it comes to third-party keyboards, Android is by default the first choice because it just isn't an option on iOS. But how will the tides shift if iOS is opened up to aftermarket keyboard? Overnight an untapped marketplace with hundreds of millions of users would be opened up. We can easily imagine a situation where developers -- from TouchType (SwiftKey) to weekend enthusiasts -- are shuffling to get their keyboard approved in the App Store to take advantage, drastically cutting down their development time for Android in the process.

In the long run things may balance out considering the mature marketplace of users installing other keyboards on Android, but we haven't really seen this dynamic play out before. There's a chance Android may be losing its SwiftKey exclusive to iOS next week, but the real unknown is how this will affect the wider market for third-party keyboards.

More: AllThingsD

 

Reader comments

Is Android about to lose the exclusive on a top-ranked keyboard to iOS?

159 Comments

Just started using the Google keyboard on my gs3 and loving it. Don't think I'm too worried about development issues with this one.

I don't think this is the reason. The real reason is because like it was mentioned at I/O, instead of releasing a new software with new number aka Key Lime Pie, Google would put it's upgrades right on the Play store.
It's hard to explain so read more about it in the blogs around May 24

Bingo. My wife freaked out when she saw the keyboard as an app to update, thought it was a virus or something. it's just Google taking things out of the control of OEMs and network providers.

And how does any company gain market share after they lose it to a competitor?

They imitate their competitor.
Headline: Apple invents alternative keyboards for IOS.

In the U.S. And according to one study —not that that means the study is incorrect, it just isn't representative of a wide range of data.

Is it so hard to admit that the iPhone is gaining? BTW, Comscore is the one that most rely on for stats.

Some "world champs". How many countries other than Canada compete for the title? If Cuba or the Dominican Republic were allowed in the big leagues, no American team would win in the foreseeable future.

This is the dumbest reference of baseball to technology ive ever seen, you should be embarrassed with this comment.......There are many Dominican and Cuban nationals (Cubans need to defect obviously) currently playing baseball in MLB, and seriously, Canada competing for the title.......cmon man - there is (1) Canadian based MLB team, the Toronto Blue Jays..........how many players on the Blue Jays do you think are from Canada??? I dont think a single one is. Stupid....just stupid comment.

But, if you were referring to the World Baseball Classic, which matches players from their country of orgin - ie. USA vs. Japan, Dominican Republic vs. Puerto Rico, or China vs. Italy.....etc...........then yes - the USA has been dominated by the Latin American teams.......but to insinuate that the Latin American teams would win the world series, is just dumb - if you dont know anything about baseball, just dont try to make that analogy.

Not really. That quarter shown ended in April and doesn't take into account the s4 since it became available at the end of April. The next quarter will show a bigger increase for Android and a possible decrease for Apple.

Why do you think Apple is coming out with a lower cost iPhone and considering a trade-in program? It's because they see the writing on the wall.

And it will be worse for them if Windows Phone 8 continues to gain traction

The article is for the US Market, Google 52% and ios 37%, across the world Android has 70%+ to ios around 19%.

Funny how neglect the fact that Android still has 52% US market share. Wouldn't expect anything else from a yankee fan.

i agree, although, it's gotten so much laggier lately. Still, for my style of punch fast, think later thumb typing, it's the most accurate. I guess this is what Tim cook meant when he said "opening up iOS". Hopefully we'll see more of it!

How is he being a troll? The Android system is fragmented across companies and even across devices under the same company; it's obvious. They're willing to stop supporting a device despite the hardware being capable, or it'll just take forever to update it. (Carriers also play a part in this problem, though, so the blame can't always be placed on the company's development team.) iDevices are predictable by comparison: Apple's support extends for roughly two years on its mobile devices after release (three different major iOS upgrades per generation), and the firmware is uniform.

These are fundamental differences, and some people are just not above stating the obvious.

To cashxx, I salute you for making a joke.

Apple will now "invent" iKey. An exact replica of SwiftKey, but with a different name! ...Then sue SwiftKey and win. Looks like a win-win for Apple!

Yeah really-who cares if we don't have the exclusive? Jeez this would address one of the many plethora of issues I have with iOS.

God, seriously. It says a lot about the sad state of gadget fanboyism that people react negatively to the very idea that Apple may make a change to make its users' experience better.

Also, if Apple were to open iOS up to third-party keyboards, it would make SwiftKey a SHITLOAD of money, which is good for everyone who uses their products.

I don't think you have a hate Apple in order to love Android. iOS isn't for me; that's ok others like it and are happy with it. I disagree with things Apple does, but I choose not to give them my money.

For the iOS users I hope this is true. One of the things I have a really hard time with when working with an iPad is the keyboard. I just don't like it.

Could also fuel more keyboard innovation which is good for everyone (I think this is more likely than Android being left behind). So please, please Tim; open up this possibility in iOS.

I have friends that love their iPhones, and you know what; good for them. Apple opening up iOS for some features is a good thing. I've told iOS folks about Swype and SwiftKey and they think its great, but can't use it. swiping your finger to type is for many a great way to enter text.

I've know people with Apple devices who have told me that the stock keyboard sucks. So it's a great market for SwiftKey to step into.

As long as Android doesn't get forgotten...

I've personally heard from Iphone users that their keyboard is a non-issue.
It's generally lag free and has great auto-correction. That's what most users want.

Android keyboards, on the other hand, have a plethora of features and characters and symbols they can use. They have different ways to type.

Apple was smart for doing this. For the most part, people like the iphone keyboard. But if people want another keyboard then keyboards like Swiftkey would do really well.

This article should be on some skewed pro apple site, not android central! The answer is no, android won't lose keyboards to iOS.

you should try harder to sound like a bitter fanboy. This isn't a war, we are all just into technology, it's cute though, you didn't even read the headline let alone the article, which the headline denotes, is about exclusivity. No one thinks they would go away. geez.

How do you know what he read or didn't read? And the "Headline" might have been clearer had it left off "to IOS".

It is goodness that Apple users might get to experience different keyboards.

It looks like your attention to the article was a little distracted too.
The following line from the article "drastically cutting down their development time for Android in the process." could indicate more than the loss of exclusivity. Since time is a limited resource some developers could - emphasis on could - withdraw from further android development.

if a company moves to support another platform, android would loose exclusivity and probably the few cross platform dev's they had, but that's ridiculous. Obvious comment is amazingly obvious.

It'd be great if they cooperated with SwiftKey and added SwiftKey functionality to the stock iOS keyboard. In that case I would consider switching to iPhone.

You'd consider switching to iPhone because of a new keyboard option? Are you sure that you're a true Android fan? Lol

Good point about her being balanced. I try to be as well. That's why my decision to buy a Mercedes instead of a Hyundai was based solely on who had the better steering wheel. I will be switching to the Hyundai if they get that Mercedes steering wheel though. Lol. On the real, I see what you're saying. I have a Note 2, as well as an iPhone 5. There's no way I'd choose one over the other because of the keyboard. There's just way too much to consider. That was my point.

How do you know she would be switching just for the keyboard? Maybe she loves everything about the platform, but just really hates the keyboard? :P

The main reason i stick with android if for the keyboard options. A good input method is very important to me, and i am sure many others as well. I wouldn't trade Swiftkey for any other app that is out there and I am sure many others do too, that is why it is the #1 paid app in Google Play right now.

I'm not a fan of anything. I'm just using what I consider convenient for me. I find iOS very stable and its interface uniform compared to Android, but I don't switch to it because of its ridiculous closeness and inability to have a better typing experience.

Im a huge fan of swiftkey, but they need to figure out ASAP how to store a users 'predictions' I dont want to have to teach my ipad what my iphone already knows or start from scratch switching from android to apple or apple to android

The reason I left iOS is because a) I loathe anything to do with iTunes and b) the keyboard sent me into a black rage every time I used it. Good on them, if they're finally realizing that their stock experience isn't up to snuff.

Good for iOS users! Nice to see Apple forging forward into 2010, finally. In fact, I'd like to see Apple *really* step up and open up their system with things like intents and full-on home screen customization.

Competition is good and Apple leveling the playing field should help make Google, Samsung, and the others step up their game even more.

Steve Jobs is turning in his grave. First a bigger screen and now this. I think Apple is starting to learn that if they need to open up a little and be a little more innovative or they're going to start losing users. It's great for Swift key. If Apple does open up they have the potential to make millions basically over night! I personally use the Google keynoted on the nexus.

i see my point went over your head. i was talking about iOS vs. Android. perhaps given the recent loss of market share to Android, Apple is realizing that they need to loosen up.

Not always.....open and free you spend hours wasting time troubleshooting. Some just want stuff to work out of the box where closed and proprietary come in usually.

I've never had to troubleshoot an Android keyboard. Go back in your troll hole. Shoo. Be gone.

Long-time coming. In Jailbreak World, this has been possible for years, and I've been hurting for a swipe/trace/glide keyboard feature in stock iOS (you know, to make the iPhone more adapted to its long-touted "one-handed use").

This is a good move by Apple, one of the key initial reasons I never went iPhone was because their keyboard was really bad! Not that I would go with them now though, there are many other things unappealing to me about iOS.

That sounds like bad news for DYAC, but great for everyone else. If Swype jumps into ios I believe you would be able to migrate your words over, and the living language should keep you from having to teach words on every device.

The main reason I bought a keyboard for my iPad was because the iOS default one sucks! If SwiftKey came to iOS and they made the made the next iPhone screen to about 4.5 inches to 5 inches wide, I'd seriously think about switching over for my next phone.

This good for Google. They've already shown that exclusivity isn't something that they work towards, on the contrary. I'm sure Google keyboard will be the top keyboard on iOS. It has 2 huge advantages over Swiftkey: it'll be free.. and it's made my Google.

This would make sense. Google released its own keyboard earlier this week and that will put a dent in the marketshare for custom keyboards. There are too many fanboys who think Google can't do anything wrong, willing to ditch Swype, Swiftkey and others to stick with the mothership's offering. It'd be good for these developers if the drop in marketshare in Android could be cushioned by adoption from iOS users.

Sadly, this is Apple we are talking about here. I don't think they'll open up to third-party keyboard developers. Most likely they'll just buy some keyboard company (if they haven't already done so) and have them create a better keyboard for iOS 7.

I agree. Seems more like Apple to just work with either Swype or Swiftkey to integrate their software with IOS.

You know the answer to that question because it's been spelled out to you many times on this site, troll. Go away. Shoo.

Dear Lord. Read the autobiography of your god and get educated. Google steals, Apple steals, Microsoft steals. If you don't think these companies have, you're just insisting on being a fool.

iOS keyboard is definitely not as bad as Touchwiz. The keyboard on my Galaxy Camera is horrible. My Galaxy Nexus is great. My iPhone seems to do just fine most times. Buttons are tiny and that ain't gonna change.

I must have a different Touchwiz keyboard on my Note 2 than the one you are talking about. I love my Samsung keyboard. It is a perfect mix of Swype input with SwiftKey prediction + it has a dedicated number row!

This is the first keyboard that I prefer to SwiftKey Flow.

http://imgur.com/4BujAoe.png

I am 100% solid Android. If Swiftkey goes iOS or Windows Phone, then the company loses exclusivity with me and I'll start using the Google Keyboard, which is actually very good and highly comparable to Swiftkey.

So if Google Keyboard goes to iOS and Windows Phone, you'll just put your phone in a microwave?

This is just my opinion but Swiftkey sucks! I stopped using it after about a week because I spent way too much time going back to correct what I was typing. As a writer that was unacceptable. Swype was my choice of keyboard until Google released theirs. Which, by the way, is the best keyboard I've used so far. If Apple is lucky they'll get Googles keyboard.

What makes Swiftkey great is that it learns your patterns. Can't do this in a week. That's why their free trial lasts 2 months...

I agree with you that it sort of slows down the steady flow of typing, but I sure get a lot more words on the screen more quickly than by pecking keys, make fewer mistakes, and hey...it even helps me when I am at a loss for words =)

I need to try stock google kbd, sounds pretty nice.

I've been using it for about three days now. I'm really liking it. Not having to go back and correct my words nearly as much as I did with swiftkey. The floating word box while typing is really nice as well.

Swype has one killer feature that got me to return to it after trying Swiftkey and its Flow alternative. If you tap out a word, say some jargon that isn't in the dictionary or an acryonym, and Swype picks the wrong word for you, you can go back to the word by tapping on it and there will be what you originally typed on the far left of the prediction area above the keys. In other words, it remembers what you originally typed even after you've typed several more words. Swiftkey doesn't do this and it drove me crazy. Plus, its Flow prediction was horrible compared to Swype.

Don't know what you're doing but I never had that issue, and I've written and edited quite a bit on my tablet. Maybe the problem isn't the app.

Are we really surprised by this? I mean, seriously, we've been highlighting the reasons why Android is better than iOS for a long time. I personally have used the keyboard example for years. It's only natural that Apple will need to change their ways on the customization of certain elements of their interface. They're trying their best to close the gap on their shortcomings.

The big question in my mind is, as Apple continues this trend, what is Google going to do to keep the level of innovation and keep Android ahead? I trust they'll do a fine job, and I can't wait to see.

At this point its all ecosystem. And Google doesn't care if you use android or iOS as long as your using their ecosystem and giving them your data.

It's simply not in Apple's nature to open up. Android will ALWAYS be different because Apple will never give you choices in device manufacturer, physical keyboard options, widgets, better multitasking... heck, right now Apple won't even let you set a different browser or email app as your default.

I would be happy for the iOS peps to get a better keyboard, unfortunately most wouldn't stray from stock, just like most android users. For us power users this is an awesome option. But for most users a keyboard in just a keyboard. Just my two cents.

By the time they get tethering, NFC, Qi charging, 5 inch screen, water resistance, Eye scrolling, Beats Audio, etc, etc, etc... What? 20 years? 30 years?

iPhone 9 baby! That's my prediction. By that time, Android will have moved to gesture typing or have a holographic keyboard in dark rooms, and Google now may be super good by then that dictation may become faster and more accurate than actually typing

Yeah until iPhone does it. Then you'll go ape shiz about how amazing it is. Good work though defaulting to your go to copout when someone makes a good point about Apple's shortcomings.

No, only eye scrolling. Not sure about Beats since I've never heard it, but everything else is a legit feature.

Good. More money for Swiftkey equals better products for everyone. As long as Apple can open up their OS a bit without compromising the user experience it's a win for everyone.

I'm almost betting this is just speculation. Apple wants to be taken serious as a business and government seller of phones, and this would hinder that somewhat.

I agree with Alex. The question isn't whether developers will benefit from iOS if Apple opens up (of course they will) but whether devs will start prioitizing for iOS to the detriment of Android. Considering that Android does have a (marginally) larger market share but developers continue to develop exclusively or initially on iOS gives this concern legs. 2 positives to Android users that could come out of Apple opening up - less established devs profiting from staying with Android and users paying for apps to get/keep devs on board.

I would hope that iOS would open up to allow for other keyboards. Their keyboard hasn't changed at all in my memory.

Everytime I'm forced to use my wifes iPhone I'm stressed over trying to use that keyboard. mainly because I use special characters for my passwords and most of those are on the 3rd level down on the sub pages. I find that very frustrating.

Besides Swiftkey makes a great product that has made me a loyal satisfied user.

LOL! Whenever there is an article about new iOS features, it is always about something that has already been on Android for years.

Innovation!

Can't wait to see the commercial, "A customizable keyboard, only on the new iPhone 5s." I'm thrilled that Swiftkey will develop for Apple, though my GF loves her iPad, and we both use Swiftkey on our Android phones

Swiftkey is ok.. but its flow is a pile of garbage, I'm sorry.

And the reason so many keyboards exist on Android is because they all tried to get typing as wonderful as it is on iOS. Haven't had an iPhone for 3 years and the only thing I miss is just how good typing for most things is on the iPhone. The correction for most words and accuracy is amazing.

That being said, their "always capital" and letters-only interface is a joke. The inability to ever learn words that you want is stupid. Their word selection/replacement has been passed up years ago. It's just archaic.

But man, typing on it is still wonderful and has yet to be replicated on Android. Stock Android 4.1+ has come close though. Swiftkey has a long way to go before it's a good keyboard.

I'm forced to use iPads at work because an app we use only runs on iOS. What you say about the keyboard makes no sense. It's in every way inferior to Swype on my Nexus 4. Every way.

Falls right line with the commercials they had a couple years ago where they showed everyone standing in line for the new iPhone, a couple people walk by with galaxy s3s and shared a photo or play list. The people in line are all freaking out "what did you just do?" "Maybe we'll be able to do that with the next one"

How is this a bad thing? Everyone always bashes Apple for being so closed & limited. I'm glad they are opening up a bit. Hopefully this will mean a surge in development and some great new features for all.

It's not bad. This is the android nerdrage version of iOS dummyies' reactions when Instagram came to Android

Give the iNerds a better keyboard. Android has it much better than iOS whether iOS partially opens up their OS or not.

I would welcome SwiftKey on iOS. I hate having to remember that I can't just press and hold to use the ALT keys when I'm on the iPad.

I don't think that it is a big deal. The only reason that the third party keyboard market is so huge on Android is that almost every manufacturer chooses to develop their own (typically terrible) keyboards. The stock Google keyboard which, incidentally, just became available, is great but most phones do not come with that keyboard.

(Anyone who has used the stock Samsung keyboard on a GS2 or GS3 knows what I am talking about I am sure)

The iPhone stock keyboard is incredibly better than most of these manufacture developed keyboards we have on Android. I personally started using Swiftkey after leaving iOS for the GS2 when I was looking for a keyboard to replace the terrible Samsung keyboard.

My point: If all Android based phones had the stock Google keyboard there would probably be a much smaller market for 3rd party keyboards.

You are incorrect. A ton of phones come with Swype baked in and it is great. Even the old Gingerbread keyboard is better than the one on iOS.

I agree on Swype and the "Old Gingerbread Keyboard" as you call it was the stock Android keyboard, which, as I said, beat the keyboards that the manufacturers released. The only option on iOS, the stock Apple keyboard, is much better than most of the manufacturer developed keyboards, like the Samsung keyboard IMHO.

Yes: Apple needed choice....but Apple did not have manufacturers with no software development experience implementing shoddy keyboards (like my Samsung and Motorola phones had before I loaded Swiftkey).

Your fanboyism is ridiculous. Apple keyboard is better than 95% of all Android keyboards. You have probably not even tried an iPhone keyboard. Like someone said, they have all these keyboards because the ones that come on the phones sux. Google and Swiftkey are nice, but not much of anything else.

I'm happy to hear that iOS may finally give people the option to replace that awful stock keyboard, and giving the developers of some of Android's best keyboards another possible revenue stream just sweetens the deal.

Well, glad the walls are coming down a little on Apple. I'd have probably bought an iPhone at some point in the past had they been as open. Jobs must be rolling in his grave.

Oh gosh, what a joke. Only an idiot would pull one just to publish the other. Unless they got PAID to do so, which I think we all know Apple isn't going to be PAYING people to put apps. The fact that Swype may ALSO be going to iOS, it would be stupid for them to pull something off another, almost as large market, that they 1:already have all the work done 2: already have an established market. And I don't think they're idiots haha

Nobody's saying SwiftKey will unpublish its keyboard from the Play Store. The implication is that they may slow development on Android to make an iOS version.

GEEZ, 30, 40, 50, 60 year old still pulling out Apple, Windows and Android wee wee's and comparing? Such a tired, boring topic anymore.
Move the freak on...

Why worrying, really? This can only be good for business, both sides. When the competition gets fierce, the offers get sweeter.

This will be an opportunity for us to show how much better our keyboard, MessagEase, can perform than ANY QWERTY based keyboard. Right now you can download MessagEase for free from Google Play or Apple Store, but our iOS version is just an app. Our Android version, however, kicks ass.

I've gone full circle: swiftkey to stock JB to Swype back to Stock JB keyboard.

IMO, I've found that Swiftkey's flow isn't as good as stock JB swipe or Swype. Swype is great and would be my go-to KB if it weren't for that Dragon Dictate memory hog! Use the built-in, Google Voice dictation dang it FTW!

Summarize:
Stock Android 4.2+ KB > Swype (w/ Dragon) > Swiftkey
Swype (w/o Dragon) > Stock Android 4.2+ KB > Swiftkey

Swift key sux, not very accurate I would say 60%-70% accurate. Swype works best for me, rarely do I have to delete when using Swype. I've used both for longer than one month and Swype is best.

This is great news, I have always loathed the iphone keyboard every time I used my gf's old phone fore something. I actually prefer the GS3's stock keyboard believe it or not. The keys are easier to press and the haptic feedback is the best. Hope this is true and iphone users get to use these great apps.(stock JB keyboard is my favorite atm though)

iPhones still don't have haptic feedback for their on-screen keyboards, which is a shame.

Anyway, even if they open iOS up more, it'll take a century before those self-centered cupertinonians even let you change how iOS' UI looks.

Not for nothing but personally like the iOS keyboard more than any other keyboard I've ever used. It just really feels smoother than any android keyboard out there. If I can have it on my one it would be awesome.

Have you ever used SwiftKey? It is incredible. With a better, more functional layout and more features (shorten key height, swipe to delete word) and ridiculously incredible text prediction you will save time with SwiftKey.

It may not be the best keyboard for you but it's not really possible for the Apple keyboard to be better. On Android there are lots of other keyboards that you may prefer depending on how your mind and fingers work but for a conventional keyboard design it's pretty easy to say SwiftKey is the best out there.

I've been using Swiftkey for a few weeks now over the standard Nexus 4 one.

I've done all the setup and 'training' etc. but I have to say for me the standard android one was far more accurate.

I was quite surprised at how annoying I've found Swiftkey.

It might work better for the more adventurous smartphone typist but the stock one does a superb job on its own.

The only thing I think is stupid about SwiftKey is the default setting that sets the space bar to select the default word. Thankfully that's easy to turn that off in the settings. I'll bet if you turn that off you'll find SwiftKey to be your most valuable app. I also like changing the colors so it isn't so dark. I also like setting the keys to be "small" which makes them more square instead of rectangle in portrait orientation. This gives a small amount of extra screen real-estate and helps counter the [rant]seemingly foolish move by Google of moving static buttons onto the screen. Google really needs to add a way to hide those when viewing photos or playing games. So far it seems to me the only time they're hidden is when you're viewing some/most video. It's really annoying there's no way to view 16:9 photos at complete full screen on my phone. I can completely understand why HTC and Samsung refuse to go along with such a bad idea.[/rant]

I really don't think the ability to choose other keyboards will make many people switch.
Also I prefer Kii keyboard over Swiftkey

What's with the wording "Lose the exclusive"? It's more like Apple is getting a clue and realizes the value of 3rd party keyboards. Android was the only mobile OS that supported 3rd party keyboards. That's a little different than losing the exclusive on something.