Earlier today, as part of Talk Mobile, we talked about the importance of keyboards. The iPhone has a virtual, software keyboard designed by Kenneth Kocienda et. al, back in 2007. Inarguably impressive for its time, it combined useful auto-completion and auto-correction, and grew to encompass an amazing array of languages and shortcuts. But it's 2013 now, and even in the iOS 7 demos, the keyboard didn't look remarkably changed. Is it time for Apple to explore third-party options?
Windows Phone only has one, first-party keyboard and by all accounts it's serviceable. BlackBerry likewise only has one, first party keyboard. It licenses technology from SwiftKey, but includes its own OpenGL interface and gamified word-throwing mechanic, and has received an amazing amount of praise. Android, however, has not only the current, stock Google keyboard, but keyboards from manufacturers like HTC and Samsung, as well as third-party options like SwiftKey and Swype.
Back before WWDC 2013 rumors started to spread about iOS 7 providing access to third-party keyboard makers. This rumor might originate, in part, from a question Tim Cook answered at the D11 Conference about third-party APIs (application programming interfaces). It might also have to do with "leaks" that came out just prior to WWDC claiming at least a couple Android keyboard makers were getting ready to port to iOS.
WWDC, however, passed without mention of third-party keyboards for iOS (but with an awkward car demo!). Whether third party keyboards were never on the agenda, or the "leaks" got them kicked off the agenda, or they may indeed be on the agenda for a future event is tough to say. All we can say is that Apple hasn't announced any third-party keyboard support for iOS, not open to every developer, not tied to limited partners, nothing.
But would you want them to? Are you fine with the iPhone and iPad's current software keyboard? Are you looking for Apple and Apple alone to make improvements, and if so, what kind? Or would you want to be able to swap in Swype, SwiftKey, or another third-party keyboard option?
Update: John Gruber of Daring Fireball weighs in on the iOS 7 third-party keyboard rumors:
My understanding is that third-party keyboards were never on the agenda for iOS 7, or at least they were never planned for what was announced at WWDC.