Next Keyboard could be the first iOS 8 keyboard done right

By , Dec 22, 2014

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS teaser 001

The proliferation of incredibly varied, feature-rich software keyboards has proven that Apple did the right move opening up iOS 8 to third-party developers more than ever before. That being said, the initial crop of keyboards available in the App Store leaves a lot to be desired, in my personal opinion.

None of the keyboards I’ve tried and tested thus far — and I downloaded virtually every single one out there — come close to touching Apple’s stock keyboard in terms of efficiency and usability. It’s more often than not that cramming all the features one could think of into a keyboard does the opposite of elevating the experience.

Sure, Swype makes you a faster typist but I just can’t get over its sluggishness and the globe icon that’s inconceivably nested under a menu. Another example: Tintype may take typing and swiping to the next level but it takes a lot of time getting used to and its appearance can be a little overwhelming for most people.

I could go on and on highlighting weaknesses and bad design choices in other keyboards that are mostly Android replicas anyway, but I won’t as I’m sure our readers have their own gripes with them. On a brighter note, looks like search for the perfect iPhone keyboard could be over soon.

Enter Next Keyboard.

Coming soon from Toronto-based award-winning studio Tiny Hearts Apps of the Wake Alarm and Quick Fit fame, Next Keyboard has been designed for and by iOS users. It’s “the keyboard that gets you,” developers tell me.

The software looks to extend the seamless typing experience provided by Apple’s stock keyboard by adding a thoughtful list of only the best and most meaningful features seen in other third-party keyboards.

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS teaser 003

These include efficient gesture typing, super fast edits with the quick cursor control, smart next-word predictions, beautiful themes that can be switched on the fly with a simple gesture, emoji suggestions, clear Shift key graphics for on/off states and more.

Next, a Kickstarter project, has been seven months in the making and they’re now putting finishing touches on it.

As stated above, the app strives to address some of the biggest customer pain points with iOS 8 keyboard to come up with faster ways to type and fix mistakes, especially one-handed on the larger iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

“Why can’t we see lower- and upper-case letters, and why can’t we use themes to make our keyboards ours?”, developers write in an introductory post over at Medium. Here are a few pain points the team wants to remove when it comes to typing on the iPhone.

Swipe to type

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS lower case and quick switching iPhone screenshot

Like the Swype keyboard, Next lets you swipe to type. This is especially useful when thumb-typing while holding your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus in one hand as you can just glide your finger from the first letter of a word to its last letter, lifting only between words. You can also swipe to delete, of course.

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS swipe to type animated GIF

While it may sound complicated, you’ll soon get the hang of it. And once you overcome mental barrier associated with swiping on the keyboard, your typing speed will increase vastly.

I also like how a simple tap, hold and switch gives you quick access between numbers, punctuations and letters. Another nice little touch: the app has custom sounds to ensure that you can actually distinguish between the different keys you tap.

Quick cursor control and smart predictions

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS lower case and quick switching iPhone screenshot

Next sports its own word prediction algorithm which guesses what you’re trying to say before you say it by intelligently analyzing the words you’ve already typed. Again, just like Apple’s stock keyboard, dynamically changing suggestions appear as you type, based on context. Folks who’d rather do without predictions can hop over to in-app settings “to turn off word predictions.

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS Settings

Which brings me to my next favorite feature: smart cursor control. There has to be a faster way to type, especially on the bigger iPhones in one-handed mode, right?

With Next, no longer do you have to fumble around to move your cursor to just the right spot. Simply drag your finger over the spacebar to precisely position the cursor exactly where you want it.

Sweet!

It certainly beats maneuvering the zoom-in magnifying glass to the right spot.

Lowercase keyboard and fast switching

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS lower case and quick switching iPhone screenshot

Does “I can never tell if I’m on upper or lower case” ring true in your case? If so, you’re going to appreciate Next’s sharp design which leaves no ambiguity as to whether you’re in lowercase or UPPERCASE mode.

Emojis with predictions and better Shift keys

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS smileys and Shift keys iPhone screenshot

Emojis have a dedicated button at the rightmost of the word prediction area just above the keys. Tap it anytime to bring up dozens of emojis. You can quickly scroll through them vertically or switch between different emoji groups by tapping on the category icons alongside the bottom, like in the stock Apple keyboard.

Check out instant smileys in Next.

But Next is taking emojis one step further by offering useful smiley predictions. Based on what you’ve typed, the app takes the pain out of finding the right emoticon by putting emoji suggestions only a tap away. As a nice bonus, the Apple glyph (the  sign) is there, too.

Check out some of the other Next keyboard icons on Dribble.

As many of you have probably realized by now, Apple took a lot of heat over the design of the Shift keys in iOS 8. Making matter worse, many third-party keyboard developers in their desire to fix the problem are only accentuating the issue with some pretty bad design choices.

With Next, the guessing game as to whether or not the Shift key is ON or OFF ends in one fell swoop. That’s because the difference between the two states is clear to the naked eye. Fixing the Shift mess earned Next a nice trending post on Designer News and on Reddit.

Quick-switching themes

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS teaser black closeup

If you, like me, hate going to iOS Settings or switch to the main keyboard app just to choose a different look for your themable keyboard, Next will be Godsent: with a simple flick of your finger on the keyboard, Next will smoothly cycle through the available looks.

Next Keyboard 1.0 for iOS Themes iPhone screenshot

Themes in Next — and this is of utmost importance — are lightweight, colorful and crisp, unlike some over-the-top looks we’ve seen in other themable keyboards. In addition to light and dark appearances which replicate the calmness of Apple’s stock keyboard perfectly, Next livens up your typing by providing other gorgeously done themes, ranging from blue and green to orange and more.

What really surprised me is that Next doesn’t need full access to function properly and let you enjoy all its features!

The app will be an iOS 8 exclusive when it launches on the App Store by the end of February 2015. The price has yet to be determined.

Next Keyboard is currently being tested on the iPhone but they’re planning on making it compatible with iPads. Additional user-requested features will be added after the app launches, like support for other languages (it’s English-only initially).

Next is a collaborative effort between Tiny Hearts (Robleh Jama, Rob Chia, Quadri Oshibotu, Gabe Rozenberg and Corey Pollock) and Nermin Moufti and Marco Patricio who helped with branding and sound design.

You can support the project over at Kickstarter by pledging any amount of $1 or more. By the way, they’ve surpassed the $10,000 funding goal in only two days.

Of course, the startup is investing a lot more than the $10,000 backed to make this dream keyboard a reality. Why not show them some love at ProductHunt?

All told, Next is turning into a good-looking, functional and customizable third-party iPhone keyboard with distinguishing features from the others. And its focus on addressing the Shift key issue and solving other annoying customer pain points should earn it the respect of the demanding Apple community.

I can’t wait to put my hands on it!

What do you think about Next?

Will you be giving it a whirl when it launches and does it stand a chance of becoming your next iPhone keyboard, do you think?

[Next Keyboard]

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  • Ian Leon

    “It’s road trip” lmao

    • Ian Leon

      That’s meme material for ages and ages to come.

  • GuyWithTheThings

    Yes! When is it launching?

    • Sokrates

      early February 2015

      • Ethan Humphrey

        End*

      • NeftyCorrea

        yea I doubt that ! they are slacking hard right now I’ve been waiting for this keyboard to be release for a while now but still nothing everyone that gave money or contribute to them got scammed because there way behind there time period.!

  • Fevostone

    These keyboards are all good and well but they all get rid of the little dictation mic..?? Why..?

    • Tony Trenkle Jr.

      Its not their faults…its Apples…Apple wont allow the use of the mic in 3rd party keyboards.

      • Tavish

        This. Maybe a jailbreak tweak could do this!? This is one gripe I’ve had with all 3rd party keyboards.

      • Carl

        It can be disabled in apple stock settings…

      • CasonAsherTech

        They don’t want to disable it. They want it in thrd party keyboards.

      • Fevostone

        Madness

  • Sokrates

    looks promising!

  • GeeksterGary Cobb

    It all sounds great. Hopefully, it will support the stock iOS/Apple Shortcuts when it is released rather than having to wait for version 1.1 or 2.0.

  • Chocolatewe

    This looks great

  • Jonathan

    Great keyboard. I’m still sticking with Nintype though. It can do almost all of this. 🙂

    • Diego Milano

      No kidding. I tried them all and the ones I liked the most are NinType and Fleksy, although this latter’s cursor control is truly the worst joke I’ve ever seen. So I’m sticking to NinType for now, although the auto-correct has some issues, but for now I think it’s the best keyboard which combines both tapping and swiping. You can even customize the look and feel, no need for themes. 🙂

    • n0m0n

      Wish I could get the grabbing of nintype is SO complicated to understand.

      • Jonathan

        Perhaps to some. I grasped it pretty quickly. However, I’ve used it since it first came out in the jailbreak community, so it was much more simplier. (that was about a year ago)

      • n0m0n

        IS it still available in cydia?
        What was it called?
        Maybe if I can get a simpler version to start but this is WAY to complicated for me to start.
        I would have thought a detailed informational documentation would have been available upon purchase.
        Could you offer me the name of the keyboard within Cydia, I have checked but NINTYPE isn’t there?
        Maybe another repo?
        Thanks

      • Jonathan

        Nintype is in Jormy’s (the dev) repo. cydia . myrepospace . com / jormy
        To be honest, there’s not a huge difference, and if you’re on iOS 8, the jailbroken version may not be as stable, as it is no longer being updated/supported.
        If you find the current Nintype version too complicated, you can simply not use them. Really, the only two things that you need to know to get around it, is swiping with 1 or two fingers (tutorial explains good techniques) and and changing words with the top bar. That’s the most basic you can get.

      • Ahmed FL

        i need you to downgrade my 5s ios8

      • Jonathan

        to, iOS 7? It’s not possible. :/ Only A4 devices can IF you saved SHSH blobs, and you have A7.
        Only chance is waiting to see if Apple accidentally opens the signing window again for your desired iOS.
        Or, do you want to downgrade to jailbreak? If so, no need. Latest (public) version is jailbreakable.

    • Kristen

      I really like Nintype as well. I’ve tried probably about 7 different custom keyboards and this is the only one I’ve stuck with so far. My favorite feature is the ability to select a word (that you typed many words ago) in the top bar to change it to something else – this is something I’ve wished for!! So handy for when you’re blazing through a message and then realize that auto correct jumped the gun on you a few words back, you don’t even have to retype the word, just select from the list. 😀

  • raulortiz318

    I like that this keeps the basic layout and look of the stock keyboard while adding functionality. To many of the 3rd party keyboards change too much graphically and i get disoriented and always end up switching back

  • Diego Milano

    The music on those videos is… sigh. Jeez…

  • sNick

    Bring it on. I’m ready for it.

  • diggitydang

    I’ve stuck with the stock keyboard mainly because of the delay in the keyboards loading or not loading at all (messages app especially). Until that can be fixed, it’s not worth it for me.

    • Out5poken

      Yup, the loading/no show issues are a real pita! I use swiftkey and Swype and they both suffer with this, swiftkey mainly but swype is hella annoying when it auto corrects even though I have it set to off in the options!

  • Darthque

    TL;DR

  • Shion915

    Nintype already does all of these. It’s time to evolve to two finger swiping/tapping. Not to mention Nintype can be super simple and iOS themed for those who like the stock look and feel.

  • Stephaughn Alston

    It’ll be just like every other keyboard until Apple does their part.

    • M_thoroughbred

      I agree with you on that one. My biggest gripe is the amount of crashes and the way they freeze when you’re trying to use them. Apple needs to fix this issue with iOS 8 cause it’s happening too often and takes away from the experience that these apps are trying to provide.

      • Stephaughn Alston

        Agreed.

  • Warmachine69

    This. This right here is just like why!

  • TwinSon

    I’m just waiting for the keyboard that WON’T CRASH and force you to reset the app to make the keyboard appear again.

    • M_thoroughbred

      well you’re gonna have to wait for that cause that’s not the keyboards or the developers but Apple. Until Apple updates ios 8 it will keep happening to all the third party keyboards

  • zeekfizz

    In paragraph 3 did you mean Nintype rather than Tintype? And the smart cursor is from Nintype. And the smart delete in Nintype is fantastic. As is Nintype. I guess you can tell I like it. It’s mind blowing the speed I can “type” at now.

  • Yunsar

    You said ‘Tintype’ I think you meant ‘Nintype’

  • swhitlow

    I think you meant “Nintype” not “Tintype”

  • The current keyboard options aren’t the problem. Apple is the problem.

  • kindwarrior

    Seems like Swype and bright key combined. The quick cursor is an improvement over Swype. I won’t use it for the same reason I gave up on Swype — I do a lot of dictation and I don’t like having to swap keyboards to get to the dictation icon.

  • A perfect compliment to the newer iPhones (pertaining to size). Backed it, and looking forward to it!

  • Mike C.

    I’ve been saying this for a while now, but as a recent android to iPhone 6+ convert, love the new phone but hate how apple does keyboards. Android had the best keyboards, and handled them seamlessly, especially for people who needed English + a foreign language. Hope apple fixes this soon or at least enables 3rd party keyboards to work better without errors and delays.
    Gaaah, I miss Google keyboard

  • Martynet

    all these keyboards are useless… until they allow dictation and iOS shortcuts.

  • Keir Dicus

    The Nintype keyboard is way better than any of these keyboards. Like stated in the comments, one handed swype-type typing is old, and yet you complain about how nintype is confusing to learn yet you want us to try and get past the “mental roadblock” that will come with the next app. I’m pretty sure I can still type a lot faster with nintype than any keyboard I’ve tried so far

  • Aiden McGinnis

    Donatde $25 to the kickstarter!

  • Adam Dye

    I’d definitely try the Next Keyboard, depending on the prices. It would be iffy for $5. More than that is a definite no.

  • Jake Turner

    So was this supposed to be out by now?