SwiftKey: From iPhone darling to dead product and back again
posted Tuesday Apr 18, 2023 by Scott Ertz
If you've never used SwiftKey, you should definitely give it a try. SwiftKey is a keyboard for iOS and Android that replaces the native keyboard. But, more importantly, it gives easy access to a number of features - some unique to the product. Microsoft, who acquired the product in 2016, disappointed many users (including myself) when they announced that October 5, 2022, would be the end of support on iOS. But, after reversing course, it has become yet another target of Microsoft's newest focus feature: Bing.
What is SwiftKey?
SwiftKey is a smart keyboard app for iOS and Android devices. It's designed to help you type faster and with fewer mistakes by learning from your writing style. It makes use of artificial intelligence (AI) to predict the words you're likely to type next so that you don't have to keep typing the same words over and over. It also offers a variety of themes, stickers, and extensions to help customize your keyboard experience.
SwiftKey has been around since 2010, but it wasn't until Microsoft acquired the product in 2016 that it became widely adopted. Since then, SwiftKey has become one of the most popular keyboards for both Android and iOS users. The keyboard gives easy access to emojis, including search and common capabilities. It brings a similar feature to GIFs, making it easy to express yourself that way in text, messengers, etc.
Reports of SwiftKey's death are greatly exaggerated
In September 2022, Microsoft announced that it was ending support for SwiftKey on iOS. This wasn't terribly surprising, considering there hadn't been an update to the product in over a year, with the most recent being in August 2021. The company said,
As of October 5, support for SwiftKey iOS will end and it will be delisted from the Apple App Store. Microsoft will continue support for SwiftKey Android as well as the underlying technology that powers the Windows touch keyboard. For those customers who have SwiftKey installed on iOS, it will continue to work until it is manually uninstalled or a user gets a new device.
This was greatly disappointing to users who had become accustomed to the product. On October 5, the app was delisted from the store. However, a month after the delisting, the company changed its mind and brought the product back to life. The keyboard was back in the store and the company suggested there was new development in progress.
The thoroughly modern SwiftKey
Because SwiftKey is a Microsoft product in the year 2023, a recent update has brought to it an integration with Microsoft's Bing search engine. Through this integration, SwiftKey can give you access to several capabilities of the search engine right from the top row (on the left side). The core feature, of course, is direct web searches. The results are returned in cards that swipe horizontally.
There are also some AI-powered features. The first is an incredibly useful one - a tone changer. You can enter a sentence written in one tone and have to give options in other tones. For example, I entered "What is wrong with you?" and was given a Professional option which said "What seems to be the issue?", Casual which said "What's up?", and several other options.
The biggest inclusion, and the least surprising, is the company's GPT-4 powered chat bot. Unlike the other features, though, using the chatbot forces you to leave the keyboard and move over to the app behind the keyboard. The capabilities of this integration appear to be as full-featured as on the web, though the Microsoft you sign into the app using will need access to the feature.
As with everything generative AI based, it is important to remember that the responses are questionable at best. So, it can be fun to experiment, but don't expect accuracy.