SAN FRANCISCO — Swipe it, type it, set a shortcut, grab a dictionary perfect for texting from your favorite sporting event: Typing on new Apple gadgets gets a lot easier with iOS 8.
In addition to Apple’s own QuickType keyboard, popular Android keyboard apps are muscling their way in to the App Store.
SwiftKey, Swype and Fleksy are among the most well-known of the mainstay keyboards long beloved by Android phone owners. They’re all available in Apple’s App Store now, for owners of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and anyone who has upgraded to the new iOS 8 mobile operating system. We’ve also gotten a look at Adaptxt, perhaps not as well-known but with appealing features of its own. It’s coming soon.
Apple’s updated keyboard for iOS 8 adds predictive typing and a few other things, but it still feels pretty basic compared with the power of the third-party apps, especially with no support for swipe-typing. (If you haven’t tried it, swipe typing is where you place your finger on the first letter in a word and then literally glide it across the pertinent letters on the keypad to create the word.)
Here’s a thumbnail guide to four add-on keyboard options for iOS 8:
• SwiftKey. Free. I’ve been using SwiftKey on my Nexus 5 Android phone and have come to love the way it gets to know my most-typed contacts, other proper names and frequently typed words . Swipe-typing is a dream, and shortcuts for punctuation are intuitive and work well. Choose a color theme, enlarge the keyboard’s letters/number keys. With SwiftKey Cloud, you can let the app sync your preferences across all your devices.
In iOS 8, you get a handful of language choices including French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. At launch, anyway, there were just two choices in color themes.
• Swype. 99 cents. Swype, from Nuance Communications, was a trail-blazer in gesture typing. You can quickly enter symbols, punctuation and capital letters with gestures, and add custom words to its dictionary. As with others, you can select among word predictions as you type from right above the keyboard.
At launch, you can choose among five themes and five languages.
• Fleksy. 99 cents. At launch, Fleksy really popped as the most colorful and visually customizable of the bunch available in the App Store. There were a dozen color themes and “large,” “original” and “small” font sizes. As with others, you can personalize it to your own writing style by allowing the app access to a social media or e-mail account.
In iOS 8 now, Fleksy supports more than two dozen languages. It also has a quirky social component that lets you earn “badges” for downloading languages among other things. If you’re into emoji, there are more than 800 built in to the app.
• Adaptxt. Free. This is a cool keyboard for anyone who needs access to multiple languages. When it lands in the App Store it will offer 80-plus languages and specialized dictionaries, including ones for the legal, health and financial fields. In the Android version, there are even special dictionaries for things like baseball and tennis. The company says there will be 40 in all. I’ve been using this one on my Android phone as well, and it’s a solid option.
For all of the apps, to set them up after downloading you must head to Settings/General/Keyboards/Add New Keyboard to get started. Press and hold the Globe key on your main keyboard choose a particular keyboard if you have more than one installed.
With prices at 99 cents or free, it should be easy to see which one is the best fit for you.
Follow Nancy Blair on Twitter: @nansanfran.