iOS 11 wish list: One-handed keyboard

How to enable Reachability for one-handed use of your iPhone
How to enable Reachability for one-handed use of your iPhone

Back in 2014, Apple gave us the big 4.7-inch iPhone and the bigger 5.5-inch iPhone Plus. To make up for the increased height, they also gave us reachability mode, which yanked the interface halfway down and brought top-of-the-screen controls down into usable range. What they didn't give us, though, was something to make up for increased width and general heft. Something like a one-handed keyboard? It'd be great to see in iOS 11.

Everything old...

It's long been rumored that Apple experimented with a one-handed keyboard to go along with the original iPhone 6 Plus but ultimately chose not to ship it. Recently, that keyboard was unearthed, like an artifact hidden deep within iOS.

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Perhaps this specific implementation wasn't ideal, or Apple simply didn't like the idea in general, but the concept looks to have a lot of merit. It also looks more attractive than similar implementations from other vendors of bigger phones.

Thumb happy

Apple obviously isn't averse to variant keyboards. iPad shipped with a split keyboard at launch. It was designed to make thumb typing easier on a much, much bigger screen. (Interestingly, the 12-inch iPad Pro ditched the split keyboard since it was too much, much, much bigger for it to make sense any more.)

Maybe for iPhone Plus, it makes the right kind of sense? It shares the challenge of typing one-handed, and not just because of width, but because of the weight distribution as well.

To use the default keyboard one-handed with an iPhone Plus, you have to be able to reach all the way across or juggle the phone over a bit to get to the opposite side. Biasing the more common typing characters to one side or another minimizes the amount of reaching or juggling you have to do, letting you better balance the weight, and better communicate one-handed.

I haven't had a chance to try the implementation pictures above, but I'd love to. If it made iMessage, Twitter, and other text-intensive tasks easier when I'm out walking, bag across my back, coffee in one hand, iPhone 7 Plus in the other, I'd be ecstatic.

Your wish list?

Would you want a one-handed keyboard in iOS 11? Let me know!

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • I think there is a jailbreak tweek to enable the iOS one handed keyboard that has been sitting dormant.
  • I think there is a jailbreak tweek to enable the iOS one handed keyboard that has been sitting dormant.
  • You're right there is, I wonder why Apple haven't activated it :(
  • Having come back to iOS after a three year Android hiatus, some easily accessible "back button". The back button is the only feature I'm really missing. Sent from the iMore App
  • I think you're just so used to it on Android that you feel like the iPhone needs it. I had an Android device for years, and switching back to an iPhone it did feel really strange to not have it there, but it didn't take me too long to get used to the iPhone way. There's also the swipe gesture now to go back as well if you find the back button difficult to reach. I think overall I prefer the iPhone way, sometimes on Android I'd back out too far and exit the app by accident. There's also cases like Google Chrome on Android, where the back button is used as the back button on the browser, so there isn't one provided by the app, yet the forward button (since there isn't a standard "forward" button) is hidden in a menu. Compare this to Safari on iOS where the back button and forward button are next to each other like on Desktop browsers, it feels more natural. The system-wide back button is something that's unique to Android I think (feel free to correct me on this one), and as such I don't think there's any chance of Apple implementing it. The way the back button works on iOS has been like that pretty much since day one
  • You can also force swipe back from the left bezel. Press firmly, swipe from the left bezel all the way right, and you go back an app.
  • Personally, I love WordFlow. The keyboard works well for swipe "typing" in normal mode, as well as radial "one-hand" mode. Default iOS keyboard is terrible.
  • Pretty much the perfect keyboard for your iPhone! I also love making the custom backgrounds for my keyboard and the GIF integration is awesome. Sent from the iMore App
  • The keyboard in the video doesn't look like it was meant to be a one handed keyboard. Looks more like you slide your right thumb left to gain access to cut, copy, paste buttons.
    If it were meant to be a one handed keyboard, it's a fail, as the keyboard moves in the wrong direction. Now the keyboard is even farther away from your right thumb. Just saying... :-) PS! All for a one handed keyboard, but please have the keyboard move in the direction of the thumb invoking it.
  • There were/are both sides for the keyboard, you get to pick which one.
  • I am right handed. Does that mean I can invoke the keyboard with my right thumb, from the right edge, to get the keyboard to move to the right, so that it is closer to my right thumb?
    Or would that be a two handed operation where I use my left hand to swipe from the left edge to move the keyboard over to my right thumb? Cause that kind of defeats the purpose. I want a keyboard close to my right thumb because I am struggling to reach the left edge.
  • One-handed keyboard for my new 7Plus? Darned right I'd go for it.
  • Doesn't swiftkey allow that? I seem to remember that it did that, and more.
  • Maybe, you can get rid of most keyboard limitations by using a custom keyboard
  • #Blink but Gboard the best Sent from the iMore App
  • A couple of things are on my iOS 11 wishlist!
    For one, I wish it had Location based reminders!
    3 examples are: 1.) Remind me to get donuts if I'm near a Dunkin' Donuts.
    2.) Remind me to call Mom once I'm within a mile near her house.
    3.) Call Reggie for me once I'm at 82-158 Ullman Ave. I also wish it also had a camera based distance checker(like a tape measurer). So I could just turn it on and know what's the distance between a wall and a piece of furniture. I know the Stantley App has it, but it would be awesome if it was a standard feature on iDevices. Sent from the iMore App