Nearly 10 years into the smartphone revolution, typing on a touchscreen is still a subpar experience, but Microsoft is offering up a possible new solution to our typing woes.
Word Flow combines predictive abilities like those of its recently purchased SwiftKey with a one-handed mode, custom backgrounds and swipeable input modes to make typing on touchscreens easier in more situations. The keyboard was originally introduced on Windows Phone, but this is the first time it’s been widely available on iOS.
The free app’s most striking feature is the optional curved keyboard called Arc, meant for easier input when typing one-handed. Since everything is within a thumb’s reach, swiping around the curved layout is little more comfortable and quicker than the standard straight keyboard found in Swype or SwiftKey. The Arc keyboard even has emoji support, so you can input your emotions accurately while holding your phone in one hand.
Users can switch back to the standard keyboard with a swipe along the top for typing with two hands. The keyboard’s background can be customized as well, with photo backdrops and custom colors for the letters and background. Microsoft has included some starter themes to get you going if you don’t want to type on last night’s selfie or a picture of your cat.
The keyboard comes from Microsoft Garage, the group behind some of Microsoft wackiest projects, including the alarm that forces you to make faces to shut it off and the AI that IDs dog breeds.
However, Microsoft isn’t the only Seattle-area company working on unusual keyboards; Starbucks also released its own emoji keyboard today. Users can add frappuccino-drinking cats or helpful baristas to their chats with the new custom keyboard extension.