New iOS 8 keyboards aren’t exactly tablet friendly

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Aug 5, 2013
Apple By Russell Holly Sep. 17, 2014 4:31 pm
One of the more interesting things to come from the update to iOS 8 is the ability to swap out your virtual keyboard for one that wasn’t made by Apple. This means that, among other things, iOS users will finally be able to take advantage of keyboards with better predictive text and more features than Apple is ever going to release. If you were planning on using these great new keyboards on an iPad or iPad Mini, you should hold on to your cash and make absolutely sure these new keyboards support the features you are actually interested in.
There are some truly fantastic virtual keyboards out there. SwiftKey, Swipe, and Minuum are some of the best, and on your iPhone they will likely all look and work beautifully. On your tablets, at least for the immediate future, not so much. These apps all claim to be optimized for the iPad and iPad Mini, complete with screenshots in the App Store showing off how nice they look. As you’ll see by thumbing through those screenshots, none of these keyboards support the infamous split mode that Apple’s default keyboard offers. This means that typing in portrait requires stretching across the keyboard, and typing in landscape is basically impossible with just your thumbs.

In some cases, like Swype, it’s understandable that a split keyboard didn’t happen in the tablet mode. The whole point of Swype is to allow tracing across the letters for faster typing. On a phone, this experience is phenomenal. On the iPad, it’s all but unusable. The iPad Mini isn’t quite so bad in portrait, but in landscape it’s just as bad. On Android, there have been collapsed typing modes for a little while now. In these situations, the Swype keyboard only fills up one side of the screen, making it possible for tablet users to trace in a smaller area and being generally more efficient about typing. The iOS version of the keyboard doesn’t yet support this function, so you’re stuck tracing across the entire display.

There’s a lot we don’t know about what limitations Apple may have put in place with the ability to make your own virtual keyboard, but at the very least these developers should be able to better support tablets. This isn’t likely to be a universal problem, but if you are used to that split keyboard on your tablet there’s a good chance you’ll be sticking with the default keyboard for a little while.
It’s entirely likely that these keyboards will improve at an impressive pace with the massive influx of users, but it’s clear that none of the lessons many of these keyboard manufacturers learned while making keyboard for tablets carried over just yet.

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