Minuum is one of the many third-party keyboards for iOS 8. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
With iOS 8, iPhone and iPad owners for the first time ever can replace Apple’s default virtual keyboard with a third-party alternative.
Doing so — with keyboards made by SwiftKey, Swype, Fleksy and others — could vastly improve your touchscreen typing experience. Not only do some of these keyboards make typing easier, but they also boast innovative features, like the ability to type words using simple swipes instead of taps. Many of these keyboards are completely customizable, so you can set their size and color scheme to suit you.
If you haven’t already installed a third-party keyboard, you’re missing out on one of iOS 8’s best features. In this guide, first we’ll tell you about the best keyboards available from the App Store right now. We’ll also run through the features that make them unique, show you how you can customize them and make them work for you, and explain some important concepts, such as “Full Access.”
Many of us use a Bluetooth keyboard with our Mac or our iPad, but using the same keyboard with multiple devices can be a real pain in the neck, since Bluetooth doesn’t elegantly let you pair one accessory with multiple devices.
For a little while now, Logitech has been trying to massage away that pain with a series of keyboards that can switch between being paired with a Mac and iOS device, but Logitech’s new Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard K480 makes it easier than ever. And it has a built-in stand for your iPad or iPhone to boot.
Of all the apps that will benefit from custom keyboards in iOS 8, TextExpander by Smile Software is one of the more obvious. In case you’re unfamiliar, TextExpander allows you to create snippets of text and media that can be inserted anywhere with a quick keyboard shortcut.
“We’ve been hard at work since Apple announced the new and exciting extensions and custom keyboards available in iOS 8,” said Smilie in a preview of their new keyboard layout. “TextExpander touch 3, coming on the heels of iOS 8 this fall, includes a TextExpander keyboard which can expand snippets in any app on the iPhone or iPad, including built-in apps such as Mail and Safari.”
Cooking, charging, carrying and, uh, cufflinking. Yes, this week’s Gadget Watch is all about the c-word. We even have a cubic camera, a keyboard with a nipple (which doesn’t start with "C" but it’s close -- and clicky).
Tiny kitchen? Hatred of unitaskers? Try the OXO Goodgrips Silicone Collapsible Colander, a fold-flat colander that can be used to wash and drain food, and also to cook it – heat-resistant to 600˚F, it can be dropped in boiling water to quickly boil veggies, then dish-washed, collapsed and filed back on your shelf. $30
Who needs a standing desk when you can just drop the LIFT on top of the desk you already own? Sure, it might look a little like a crappy TV stand flipped upside-down, but it is in fact a smart desk with cable routing, a drink holder, a mousemat (!), tablet and phone docking slots, and even a dry-erase whiteboard. Plus the height can be configured to suit you. It’s also a lot cheaper than a standing desk, although not cheaper than my repurposed €40 workbench with sawn-off legs. From $248
Waterfield is on a roll this summer, and the Vertigo is the latest bag I want to sling over my shoulder. It’s a vertical notebook bag that looks and works a lot like Waterfield’s Franklin Tote. Inside the main zip-open chamber are pockets set into a golden lining, with a magazine pocket on the outside for even more gear. Hand and shoulder straps are made from soft-an-strong seat belt webbing, and you can choose from black ballistic nylon or waxed canvas, in two colors and three sizes (from iPad Air to MacBook Pro). From $129.
These bike-chain cufflinks are frikkin awesome. They’re also probably a little too heavy for anything other than the most stiffly starched of double-folding shirt cuffs, but who really cares? They’re also pretty easy to make if you have access to an old chain and a chain splitter – and if you’re even reading this it’s pretty certain that you do. Thankfully they’re not too pricey, although the shipping from Australia might be. $50
It’s hard to express how much I love my clicky Filco Majestouch keyboard, but I’ll give it a go. “Nyyyyhhhhaaah!” That’s the sound of a man’s “exit push,” as it were. But I’m willing to forego my Cherry MX Blue key switches for a while in order to try out the awesome Endurapro, which uses buckling spring switches (like the old IBM Model M keyboard). Not only that, but it even has a red nipple and mouse buttons, so you don’t need to reach out like 5 feet to the right, over the cursor block and number pad, just to reach your mouse. £99
I’m skeptical of buying a bike lock off Kickstarter, but I appreciate clever new design, and the Vier is certainly clever. It’s like two U-locks combined, with twin locking bars and dual side shafts. This lets it collapse down into a small package, but it also means you have to fasten two separate locks, one on each cylinder. $80
The Biolite KettleCharge was invented when somebody put a TV remote on top of a giant pub ashtray and something clicked in their brain. The result is a kettle that boils water and simultaneously charges your USB device (the 10-watt output will even fast-charge iPads). The kettle has a thermoelectric generator in its base, which uses the difference in temperature between the hot fire/stove beneath and the cold water above to create a current. But all you need to know is that you can make you morning coffee and charge your iPhone at the same time. $150
This cute cubic camera is a lifelogger with a Polaroid label. The 1080p, 6MP camera shoots wide (124-degree) stills or video and has a built-in mounting magnet in the base. It can also connect to various mounts (tripod, bike) and even slide into an equally cute waterproof case. When I see a lifelogger camera I just quail at the responsibility of organizing all those hours of footage, but a stronger person might enjoy the fact that they can gather hours of boring video for just $100.
Grovemade’s beautiful tray not only holds your Apple aluminum wireless keyboard, it also converts the useless gap underneath into a handy storage space. Better still, that space is sculpted into compartments, with space for spare AA batteries (three of ‘em), paperclips (a piece of stationery that is now only used for ejecting SIM trays and resetting routers) and – LOL – business cards. Price? $59
The original Typo keyboard for the iPhone racked up quite a few column inches (or whatever the blogosphere equivalent might be) after it was revealed that none other than Ryan Seacrest had invested $1 million in it, shortly followed by BlackBerry filing a lawsuit against it, claiming that it was stealing the company’s trademark keyboard.
Well, the Typo is back — and apparently better than ever — thanks to the new Typo 2 keyboard, which is currently available for pre-order. Costing $99, the iPhone case essentially adds the functionality of a BlackBerry keyboard to your existing iPhone, although hopefully without looking so much like a BlackBerry that it provokes further legal action.
With so much focus on its iOS devices, it’s easy to forget that Apple is constantly innovating for its Mac product line as well.
On Thursday, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals the company’s investigations into possible future Mac Keyboards which support gesture controls, as well as in-key pictograms, symbols, and glyphs.
A bamboo bay for your Beats by Dre? A cellphone-charging carabiner? A creepy drone that follows you around? What about an iPhone case that looks like a (tiny) broken skateboard? If you were looking for any of these, you’re in luck.
‘sup dawg? No – literally. What’s up? Dog? This is the AirDog, a drone/RC ‘copter that follows you around. Hang a camera from the mount under the hovering doggy and strap the AirLeash to your wrist. Sensors beam info to the drone and it will follow your exact trajectory, only up in the air. Launch and landing are automatic, and an iPhone app can be used to tweak the flight path for, say, a continuous loop. $1,195
Possibly most notable for introducing the term “DreStation,” this bamboo stand is much more affordable than the headphones it holds. And you don’t even have to use Beats cans – any over-the-ear headphones will hang just as easily from this dumb wooden desk tidy.
It’s not all good though: The lack of a hole on the base means you can’t charge the iPhone or iPod while it stands in there. $40
Who doesn’t love a carabiner? And who doesn’t find themself in need of a Lightning cable from time to time? Nobody, that’s who. And that’s who will buy the Nomad Clip, a carabiner that unfurls to become a charger for you iDevice. Made from steel and polycarbonate, and not suitable for climbing, you can also choose a microUSB version. $39
If you like the look of Adobe’s new Creative Cloud apps Sketch and Line, but don’t fancy buying the $200 official stylus to use with them, you should pick up Adonit's new Jot Touch instead. It has a tiny “Pixelpoint” tip instead of a disk or fat rubbery point, and it works just like Adobe’s Ink stylus, letting you copy and paste to/from the Creative Cloud as well as access files and Kuler color palettes. Best of all, it’s just $120.
What’s a duck head? It’s the little interchangeable block of power plug prongs that slots onto every Apple power adapter from MacBook Pro to iPad. And the Duck Head Saver from DenVog is a widget that sticks onto the side of your AC adapter and adds a prong onto which the unused duck head can slip whenever you use a foreign duck head or the long adapter cable. $35
The cedar used to make the barrel of the Timbrr stylus contains lots of natural resins. Not only will this make it smell as good as a humidor full of Cuban cigars, but that resin also helps conduct the special human waves that are required by a capacitive screen to detect a touch. Otherwise the Timbrr is a regular ol’ stylus, with a rubber tip and a fat, easy-to-hold barrel. $34
How about a nice safe wired keyboard for your iPad? This Lightning-equipped number from Belkin doesn’t need batteries and doesn’t even require that Bluetooth be switched on on your iPad. It’s also thin, Apple-certified and comes with all the usual media keys for controlling your tablet. And with the wired connection, nobody can snoop on the keystrokes you’re sending over the airwaves. $60
Can’t decide what kind of bag to buy? Then buy the Bowerbag, a modular system that takes five (5!) separate sacks and joins them together with a modular system. Each bag, complete with its straps, connects to all the others in a huge compromise of buckles and webbing. Who cares how much it weighs? You have choice!$360
It’s an iPhone case. It’s fashioned from silicone. It looks like somebody snapped a skateboard in half. What’s not to like? Apart from the fact it won’t ever fit your pocket thanks to those wheels sticking out the back? Or the fact that you can’t reach the iPhone’s power button? Nothing, that’s what. Oh, maybe the price tag: $45
Griffin’s wired iPad keyboard at first it seems like a ridiculously tardy April Fool’s joke, or a signal that perhaps Nashville has been overcome by some bizarre warping of time; aren’t we supposed to be taking wires away instead of adding them? But under the right conditions, a wired iPad keyboard is actually a smart idea.
Current iOS 7.1 keyboard – is the Shift key on or off?
Among Jony Ive’s many changes brought to iOS 7 was the tinkering of the keyboard’s Shift key which has inexplicably gotten worse over time.
Streaks of successfully guessing whether the shift key is on or not should be award with showers of iTunes credits, but as designer Geoff Teehan points out, Apple could fix its keyboard woes with one simple change.
The immensely popular SwiftKey keyboard makes its debut on iOS today via a new note-taking app called SwiftKey Note. It promises to be the fastest way to make notes on an iPhone and iPad, and it boasts features like Evernote syncing and multilingual typing. It’s also completely free.