iOS 8 to allow third-party keyboards

In addition to improvements to the stock keyboard, Apple will open the door to the Swypes and SwiftKeys of the world.

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Apple's QuickType is a welcome addition to iOS 8, but even better is support for third-party keyboards. Tim Stevens/CNET

Apple just made a big gesture to developers. No, not that one. A good one.

As part of today's WWDC keynote, the company announced not only a new, smarter keyboard to debut in iOS 8, but also support for third-party keyboards like SwiftKey and Swype.

What's the big deal about that? While Apple's keyboard remains a tap-to-type affair, albeit with much-needed new predictive-text capabilities, Swype is among those apps offering a gesture-powered keyboard: you trace your finger from one letter to the next, spelling out the word as you go.

This kind of functionality is baked into most Android phones, and as someone who recently spent a couple months using one, I can attest that it's vastly superior. (Indeed, it's the one thing I miss about Android.) That I'll be able to enjoy the same scribbly style of typing on my iPhone is cause for celebration.

Time will tell exactly what keyboards will come to iOS 8, but SwiftKey, for its part, already has an app in the works. (The company's SwiftKey Note app brought a predictive-text keyboard to iOS earlier this year, but you could use it only within that app.)

While you're waiting, hit the comments and share your thoughts on this. Best new feature in iOS 8? Not convinced it's a big deal? Totally meh?

 

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