SwiftKey creator TouchType will be closely watching Apple’s WWDC keynote on Monday, hoping that the Cupertino company opens up its iOS platform to third-party keyboards for the first time. The SwiftKey keyboard has been exclusive to Android since its inception, but the company is itching to bring it to iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches.
If you’re unfamiliar with SwiftKey, it’s one of the most popular third-party keyboards on Android, and the best-selling Android app in over 38 countries worldwide. The company is obviously keen to expand its technology to other platforms, then, and as the second-largest platform in the world, iOS would be its next step.
But Apple’s current restrictions are preventing that. The company’s strict control over its platform means things like third-party keyboards and other system-level tweaks are not allowed. But could that be about to change?
Speaking at AllThingsD’s D11 conference earlier this month, Apple CEO Tim Cook hinted at a more open iOS platform in the future. “I think you will see us open up more in the future,” he said. “But not to the degree that we put the customer at risk of having a bad experience.”
Those comments have given TouchType a reason to be optimistic about a potential SwiftKey for iOS
“It’s great they are thinking in that way,” TouchType marketing chief Joe Braidwood said in a telephone interview with AllThingsD. “That’s very different from the message we would have gotten a year ago.”
“The most obvious API for them to open is the keyboard, because it is the greatest weakness,” Braidwood added. “The keyboard is the thing that needs work more than anything on that platform.”
Braidwood has a good point. While the iOS virtual keyboard isn’t the worst, it certainly isn’t the best, either, and there’s lots of room for improvement. Not only is it in desperate need of a general refresh, but it’s lacking features like swipe typing, which has even become part of Google’s default keyboard.
By supporting third-party keyboards in iOS 7, Apple could give users the option to use these features if they want to — just like Google does in Android. But as much as I hate to say it, I’m skeptical that’s a route that the company will take.
If it does, then it wouldn’t be long before you saw SwiftKey in the App Store.
“If and when the keyboard is liberalized, we would jump on it with the greatest speed we could bring to the table,” Braidwood said.