For years, executives with the Seattle startup Swype were forced to shrug their shoulders whenever anyone asked when their innovative mobile keyboard would be available on the iPhone. The question even outlasted Swype’s status as an independent company, as the company was acquired by Nuance in 2011.
Finally, they have an answer.
Swype will debut on Wednesday as a 99 cent app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, in conjunction with the release of iOS 8 — thanks to Apple’s decision to support third-party keyboards on the new version of its mobile operating system.
“We are extremely happy,” said Aaron Sheedy, a Swype veteran who is vice president of mobile solutions with Nuance, calling the moment “hugely rewarding” for members of the Swype team.
The signature feature of the Swype keyboard is the ability to input text by smoothly dragging a finger from letter to letter on the screen, without tapping. When installed, Swype becomes the system-level keyboard, working across apps on the Apple platform.
Swype includes an advanced language model that predicts the next words based on those already entered, and an adaptive learning feature that adjusts based on the words and phrases used most by a particular user.
Sheedy pointed back to the original work of Swype co-founder Cliff Kushler, the inventor who also co-invented the T9 text input method. Kushler originally came up with Swype as a text-input solution for people with disabilities. Particularly given Apple’s focus on accessibility, Swype’s arrival on iPhone is a “really nice full-circle story for Cliff’s input method,” Sheedy said.
Swype has been adopted widely by Android users, helping to spawn a host of competing technologies, many of which will also be coming to the iPhone.
Sheedy said he expects Swype to stand out from the field because of its core Swype technology. GeekWire’s Blair Hanley Frank has tried Swype for iPhone and other third-party keyboards as part of his testing of iOS 8 and says Swype is definitely one of the best.
Update: Here’s a direct link to the app.