RANKED: The best iOS 10 keyboards

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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

Apple makes good smartphones. It does not always make good software. That applies to its default iPhone keyboard, too.

Thankfully, now that we’re a couple of years removed fromApple openingthe iPhone keyboard to third-party developers, anyone in search of something new has a few worthy alternatives to choose from.

As someone who recently switched from Android to iOS, I’m one of them. So, for everyone’s benefit, I went on a search for the best of the bunch.

A few caveats before we settle in: First, I stuck to the free stuff; Minuum and Swype are okay, but as we’ll see, you can get something very good without dropping a dime. Second, I only considered boards that are actually made for typing. (Sorry, Kim.)

With that said, now that iOS 10 is officially out and about, here’s how the iPhone’s virtual keyboard landscape breaks down today.


8. Blink Keyboard

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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

CoolApp’sBlink Keyboardhas good things going for it. It’s spaced out well, in a manner very similar to Apple’s default keyboard. It’s got a one-handed mode that lets you quickly crunch the board over to one side of the screen. There’s a nifty “fast delete” button that erases whole words at a time, and you can create shortcuts for phrases you type frequently.

That’s all great. Actually typing with it is not.

Its word prediction and overall accuracy can be rough; motions I’d use reliably with my top picks would too often result in gibberish here. There’s also no trace typing support – that is, when you slide your finger across the keyboard to form words, rather than tapping each key individually – which handicaps one-handed use from the jump. All of that is a non-starter.


7. Go Keyboard

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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

With theGo Keyboard, you can adjust the height and spacing of the whole board on the fly, download a bunch of cutesy themes and stickers, and switch between several languages. Thereistrace typing, thankfully, and it’s fairly quick.

But again, it can get a bit too sloppy for comfort. I had multiple instances where “be” came out as “bbs,” to give you an idea. It’sfine, but when the options below exist, there isn’t much incentive to go out of your way for it.


6. TouchPal

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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

TouchPalis one of the most fun keyboards on this list. It’s got a ton of themes, many of which are goofy – the one above makes a Super Mario jump sound with every key press – but mostly cute. If you’re a total narcissist, you can even upload your own photos and set those as backgrounds. There are lots of languages, and TouchPal says it doesn’t keep any info on what you type, which should help the privacy-conscious.

The board itself is good. It supports trace typing, has a mostly useful autocorrect, and is generally more forgiving than the two boards above. It’s just not as natural feeling as what’s below. If you’re a faster typer (like me), you’ll have to go back to fix a wrong prediction or weird spacing a little more often. Unless customization is a big deal, you can do better.


5. Fleksy

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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

Fleksyis like a spin-off of Apple’s keyboard. It’s not quite as smooth, and it still lacks trace typing, but it tacks on a bunch of nifty features. There’s a one-handed mode (which, again, is inherently limited without tracing), hotkeys, built-in GIF search, wide language support, different fonts, and so on. You have to pay a few bucks to use everything, but the four “extension slots” you get for free are fine.

Beyond that, you can adjust the size and spacing of the keys, and use a few gesture controls to speed things up. I particularly like the ability to delete whole words by swiping left anywhere on the board. There’s a bit of a learning curve to all this, but once you get the hang of it, it’s as efficient as any non-tracing keyboard gets.


4. Microsoft Word Flow

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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

Microsoft’sWord Flowis a one-trick pony, but it does that trick well. The big hook is that you can round out the keyboard on either side, contorting it to a shape that mightlook uncomfortable, but is surprisingly effective, especially since you can use trace typing.

While it’s not totally above mishaps, it was fluid enough to be my go-to anytime I was on the subway. It’s also been updated to formally support iOS 10, unlike many of the others here.

In a more standard shape, Word Flow is solid, if not super appealing. It’s a clear step behind the top two picks, but it’s painless enough with tracing or touch typing. It looks clean on top of that, and it doesn’t force you to give Microsoft all your data. Still, you’d only really get this if typing with one hand is a regular issue. For that, it’s ideal.


3. Apple QuickType Keyboard

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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

Apple’s default keyboard has gotten smarter with iOS 10. The big thing is improved suggestions – if you write something like “Joe’s email address is,” for instance, QuickType will scrape your contacts for said address, and present it as a shortcut. This isn’t bulletproof, but when it works, it’s great.

The predictions bar is a bit sharper in general, and will now show suggestions for multiple languages (if you’d like) and emojis. (Note the “keyboard” example above.) And of course, Apple’s lockdown on iOS means QuickType is still the only keyboard that lets you access the iPhone’s mic and use voice dictation. You’ll have to use it whenever you want to enter a password, too.

If you can get by with touch typing, actually writing with QuickType is still smooth and very accurate, as you’d expect from native software. There are no crashes here. The fact it gives different word suggestions based on what app you’re using is cool as well. But its lack of trace typing just kills it for me, though. It’s still slower and more difficult than it needs to be as a result. A one-handed mode is also long overdue, and some themes couldn’t hurt either. Everything here is reliable, but this list exists for a reason.


2. SwiftKey

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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

From a pure typing perspective,SwiftKeyis tops. If you use it often, it’ll be faster, more precise, and more effortless than anything else here. Its predictions are routinely excellent, and it lets you switch from tracing to typing with ease.

That’s because it adapts to your habits, internalizing your habitual movements and silently adjusting the size and orientation of its keys accordingly. You can sync it with apps like Facebook, and Gmail to personalize it even further. It’s like pressing your fingers into a virtual mold of clay. It, too, has been updated to formally support iOS 10.

I had moments where it’d take an extra sec to load, and getting this level of accuracy means letting SwiftKey remember what you type, but if you don’t care about anything beyond putting words onscreen – or you live outside the US – you can stop here.

If you want a keyboard that does a little bit of everything, though…


1. Google Gboard

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Business Insider/Jeff Dunn

… You should download Google’sGboard. Apart from being ashrewd business move, it’s also thoughtfully designed. Even if it’s not as hyper-personalized as SwiftKey can be, it’s still quick, smart, and clean.

Everything about it feels like it’s in the right place, from its sharp predictions and gesture typing, to the way it suggests relevant emojis as you’re writing. It hasn’t been officially updated to iOS 10 yet, but I haven’t noticed any irregularities with crashing or slow loading. Even without its bonus features, it’d be one of the two best keyboards available.

Aswe’ve noted before, though, Gboard also gives you direct access to Google Search, and thus the search giant’s vast array of links, images, and GIFs. This is what puts it over the top. All of those are laid out on neat little cards, and can be quickly pasted wherever they’re relevant. You have to submit to Google’s mother brain (and be online) for it to work, but it’s the kind of thing that’s hard to give up once you have it.

Some iPhone owners might be very familiar with the idea of using Google’s software to get things done on Apple’s hardware, but if you’re looking to shake up how you type, I’d go with Gboard first.