One of the absolute most exciting things about iOS 8 was its announced support for third-party keyboards in almost all areas of the OS. There are some limitations. Every time you reach a password field, the default Apple keyboard pops up just to make sure users enjoy maximum privacy. Voice dictation through Siri, which got a lot better and more responsive with iOS 8, is only allowed on the default keyboard as well. Then there’s the lack of any ability to split the keyboard up for quick thumb typing, as is possible with Apple’s keyboard.
However, with all that said, I think there’s a lot of room for growth, innovation, and amazing utility in the third-party keyboard space on iOS. Fleksy was one of my favourites in the first few weeks after iOS 8’s launch in September, but for the past few weeks, I’ve stopped bothering with any third party keyboards at all. Unfortunately, every single keyboard I’ve tried is just too buggy. It’s hard to say how much of that is on keyboard app developers and how much is due to bugs in iOS 8 (though I’d bet more on the latter), the fact of the matter is that keyboards tend to crash a lot on a daily basis. I can launch Safari, type in a URL, return to Messages, and have no keyboard. I can swipe down on a notification to respond to something, start to type a word, and have the keyboard literally disappear from underneath my fingertips.
Then there’s the level of inconsistency on an app-to-app basis. I might have Fleksy active in a chat with my girlfriend in Messages, but then have Apple’s keyboard show up when I respond to my sister (without even leaving the app).
All in all, it’s been a very frustrating experience trying to use third-party keyboards. I’ve spent most of my time with Fleksy, Swiftkey, and Swype, and as of a few weeks ago, I gave up trying to use them full time. Even on the latest iOS 8.1.1 beta, keyboards are still buggy and crashy on a daily basis. I’ll inevitably try Fleksy out with each of its updates and with every new iOS update, but I have to say, the reality of third-party keyboards nearly two months after the release of iOS 8 is disappointing.
Oh, and thank God for Bluetooth keyboards!