The one new iOS 8 feature that might make it worth going back to Apple

The one new iOS 8 feature that might make it worth going back to Apple

Summary: The folks at Apple have long had a "my way or the highway" policy when it came to modifying the inner workings of iOS. However, as this article shows, things may be changing in iOS 8.

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It was almost exactly a year ago that I bought my new Android Samsung Galaxy S4 and wrote 25 things my new Android phone does that makes my iPhone feel like it comes from the 1990s. Needless to say, it generated some discussion. 

One of the more interesting aspects of that discussion was that I didn't mention (in my list of 25 things) the customizable and replaceable keyboard systems for Android. As it turns out, I had only had my new phone for a day or so, and had not yet discovered that capability.

To be fair to the iOS side of the world, I didn't give up my iPhone (or our three iPads and on iPad mini). In fact, I use my iPhone 4S every day -- sometimes more than my Android phone. I just use them differently.

My Android phone is  my going out and being a phone phone, where my iPhone 4S no longer has cellular service on it, and I use it at home (mostly in bed) as an iPod touch. Almost every night, I read Kindle books on it.
 
I prefer the slightly smaller form factor of the iPhone in bed, because it's just a little more comfortable when laying on my side and reading. In fact, my iPhone lives on a little charger next to the bed, and almost never leaves the bedroom, while my Android phone is everywhere else in the house.
 
There's a reason for this. As a Kindle reading device, the iPhone is a very pleasant experience. But, for example, if I wanted to respond to a Facebook post, the iPhone has been quite a pain. Tapping to type words on the iPhone's keyboard -- once you learn about swiping your fingers on Android -- is something that now seems intolerably painful.
 
Since I use the iPhone in bed (often while my wife sleeps), I don't want to use voice dictation, because I don't want to wake her. That leaves the frustratingly last-decade design of the iPhone's keyboard. And even though, last month, I talked about why widgets on Android showcase iOS's usability shortcomings, the fact is it's the keyboard that's the deal-killer.
 
I've thought about whether I'd get an iPhone as my next phone (and yes, I've also thought about Windows Phones, for those of you who are bound to scream your WP loyalty). Because I regularly use both the iOS and Android ecosystems, it doesn't really bother me to switch between them.
 
Except for the keyboard. With the keyboard that's been in iOS 7 and earlier, not only do you have to tap out every letter, but you also can't tell whether the caps key is pressed or not because the keyboard letters all stay uppercase, all the time. It's just too annoying.
 
And don't think that a keyboard is a small thing. For years, the folks at BlackBerry sold their CrackBerries, in a large part, because of their customers' loyalty to their elegant physical on-phone keyboard design.
 
Today, I watched the Apple WWDC keynote, and something changed. First, Apple's Craig Federighi (who deserves the Keynote Stamina Award for all his time on stage) showed a predictive keyboard word engine that looked promising. This thing guesses entire words you're likely to want to type based on context.
 
Interesting, I thought, but it's still a pain to type words it isn't able to predict (like if I just wanted to type "Federighi," the predictor would have no idea I wanted it at just that time).
 
But then, at just about 87 minutes into the keynote, Federighi introduced the idea of app extensions in iOS, the ability for apps in iOS to securely share new capabilities with other applications. And then, at 92 minutes in, he said it: "System wide, installable, third-party keyboards."
 
Yep, that old, reviled. incredibly dated tap-tap keyboard of iOS old can be replaced by something much more usable and effective. It's the ability to replace the old keyboard engine that might make it worth going back to iOS for my phone. As the image at the top of this article shows, Swype looks to be coming to iOS in all its glory, and James Kendrick confirmed that SwiftKey is on its way as well.
 
For certain, I'll be installing iOS 8 on my iPhone 4S and that thing might finally get to leave the bedroom and be used for more than just Kindle.
 
Will you switch back now that there are new keyboards? TalkBack below.
 
By the way, I'm doing more updates on Twitter and Facebook than ever before. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz and on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Apple, Google, iOS

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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Talkback

18 comments
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  • Actually, no...

    you won't be installing iOS8 on your 4S because it will only be supported on 5 or higher. But iOS8 is probably worth finding an iPhone 5 or better to run it on because it looks incredible. Before the keynote, I wasn't expecting much based on the paucity of rumors of cool new stuff, but holy cow have they been busy. Huge leap in "continuity", SAFE extensibility, open touch-id, developer tools - a new freakin' language?! Looks like the future is going to be fun in the Apple-verse!
    dnwilner
    • They only dropped the 4.

      They only dropped support for the iPhone 4. The 4s was listed as being supported by iOS 8.

      . . . and I'm actually pretty glad I updated to the 5s, otherwise I would have been stuck with iOS 7 on my iPhone 4.
      CobraA1
  • 4S and higher will take iOS8

    Although all features may not be supported.
    rfoto
  • The integration interests me more.

    Keyboards are nice, but the integration really interests me more. Both first party and third party integration looks like a huge step forward for Apple, even if Android and Windows phone already had such things.
    CobraA1
  • Been there, done that

    Actually, the Blackberry BB10 has had that predictive keyboard feature for a bit over a year now.
    bbbl67
    • yep

      And right from the get go WP7 had predictive text, it's progressed to where near entire sentences can be typed without minimal typing, and WP8 has added swipe to the keyboard as well.
      aesonaus
      • correction

        WP8.1 has added the swipe functionality.
        aesonaus
  • Keep your Samsung smartphone, David.

    You don't need to purchase anymore Apple hardware.

    I, on the other hand, will be purchasing the iPhone 6 this year and perhaps another Apple product.

    I will be happy to inform you how iOS 8 works on modern Apple hardware. Trust me, you don't want to be a beta tester for Apple.

    Anything iOS 8 can do, EVERYTHING IT CAN ALLOW THE USER TO DO, Android and Samsumg have done years ago.

    You already have the best smartphone the world has ever witnessed. Be happy - you are one of the lucky ones.

    (Why do I feel like I need a bath now?)
    kenosha77a
    • Astroturfer Alert

      So how much did Samesung paid you to worship their overrated plastic phone?
      renzgarrote90210
      • fanboy

        While I do like the use of "premium" materials in the things I purchase, me and my family have had samsung phones for several years with no durability issues, but the discussion here was not materials but the lack of usability on the prior os versions for the apple phones, which as stated by others android phones have had for years. The stock samsung keyboard comes with the ability to use swype, but with the use of third party keyboard apps( of which there are literally hundreds) there is so much more that can be done.
        Murphy's
  • Apple's just catching up

    My Samsung S4 has been using predictive word text for as long as I've owned it. The longer you use it, the more accurate it becomes - in fact it is far more accurate than Swipe. I often never have to type a single letter when entering text.
    kszczytko
  • Its great until the next Android innovation

    Android has the benefit of having thousands of devs that work on making it better. They create apps for all sorts of things. Android didn't come up with the swipe keyboard, but they allowed users to update the keyboard and now there is swipe. If it weren't for people basically abandoning iOS for Android at an alarming rate, iOS would probably not allow keyboards. You can switch back, but its only a matter of time until some innovative indie dev comes up with a new addition to Android that will take 3+ years to get into iOS. You'll complain about it for a year, then switch to Android for a year or so, then, finally, Apple will "invent" that feature and you'll be high-fiving the company.

    BTW, does Apple pay Snapchat, etc. for stealing their ideas? I mean, if people have to pay Apple for adding a swipe to unlock, surely they need to pay for stealing all those ideas from all those messaging apps. Or maybe they just used their Time machine (you know they have Time machine) to go back and invent it.
    A Gray
  • Switching Back to Apple with iOS 8?

    My experience is very similar to yours, and I use a Samsung Galaxy S5, but also have a no cell iPhone 5s...which I'm probably going to sell. I have, or have had, every type of machine, device, whatever from Apple, Android, and Windows over the past 3 years. By a VERY large stretch the Apple keyboard is the most wretched thing I've ever used. I have had 3 iPads (the Air now) and I get a bluetooth keyboard for every one. SwiftKey is very popular with Androidites, but the standard keyboard on the S5 is very good. In addition, I thought Siri was fantastic until I started with the new talk-type feature on several new Android devices. It's better.
    However, the real deal breaker for me when it comes to phones is the size of the iPhones. I'm 71 and have large, fairly arthritic hands. The iPhone is a non-starter. Only had it for 4 months before I got the Galaxy S5 because the curl my hand needed to make to hold onto and use the iPhone was not working. iPhones are great for young, and in general, female hands....but hey, not to suggest anything:-)
    New topic: IMHO Windows machines, mobile in particular, are a view of the future because Microsoft has correctly predicted the blending of desktop and mobile that we will see on all machines in the future. My late 2013 Macbook Air 13" will some day have a retina touch screen and be able to run iOS apps... and while I'm on that subject, it is outrageous that Apple has yet to put a retina screen on the Macbook Air, which I think is one of the finest machines of any type available today.
    rdspafford
  • Keynote revealed just how far behind Apple have drifted.

    Just face it, yesterdays Keynote had no real bounce or significant content, that is not already available on Android or Windows. The Microsoft Build in April had two days of Keynote, and another Tech Ed Keynote last month. Microsoft are storming out with developer great stuff, and Google IO is just around the corner.

    Apple have lost the ball.
    JulesVerny
    • Android and Windows throw lots of stuff on the wall...

      ...but only Apple makes em stick.
      rfoto
  • ***** BREAKING NEWS *****

    ... Apple Corp today announced the introduction of technology that has been widely available to Android users for years..

    Apple will later sue for patent infringement.
    ribzilla
  • Just Use Siri

    Your use of iPhone 4S is isolated because the vast majority of iPhone users aren't reading in bed next to their sleeping spouse. I get around the keyboard by using Siri. Also, there is an auto-correct feature that comes in handy sometimes that allows me to tap on my keyboard with impunity because I know that words will be automatically corrected. Also, if you setup keyboard shortcuts, common things like your email address can be typed out in extremely short time. I have mine setup for "mah" which will in turn, spell out the rest of my email address automatically.
    Maha888
  • Android is and always was Trash

    It was build like Windows: Every app can do almost anything to the system and do damage to it in a way only repairable by a full reset. iOS is all about security, and they added all those features over time but in a new way, without sacrificing security.
    Bachsau