By Dan Moren
September 16, 2019 6:21 AM PT
13 Features of iOS 13: QuickPath keyboard
The iPhone’s software keyboard literally1 reinvented the way we enter text on smartphones: not just because it eschewed the hardware keyboard for a software-based model, but also because of the variety of smart technologies it incorporated, such as autocorrect and tapping-and-holding for different characters. But despite the revolutionary nature of the keyboard, it’s remained largely unchanged since the iPhone’s introduction in 2007.
iOS 13, introduces, for the first time, an alternate way to enter text: swipe typing.2 Instead of tapping on keys, you put your finger on the first letter and then slide it to the next letter and so on. Based on your finger movements and iOS’s dictionary, the system figures out what word you’re most likely trying to type.
Now, those with Android phones or who have used third-party apps like Google’s Gboard, SwiftKey, or Swype will rightfully point out that Apple didn’t invent this idea. But on iOS, swipe-typing has always been the province of third-party apps, and that’s limited its adoption.
iOS 13’s QuickPath keyboard is surprisingly good for a first effort. In the weeks that I’ve been using the betas, my biggest problem is simply remembering that the feature is there, so accustomed am I to tapping out my messages like someone from the long distant past who still hasn’t seen the series finale of Lost. It’s not error-proof by any means, but what problems I have encountered are outweighed by its convenience in many situations: for one thing, swipe typing when you’re holding your phone one-handed certainly feels a lot easier than tapping.
For those times when QuickPath doesn’t quite figure out what you’re going for, the predictive text bar above the keyboard does offer suggestions for other words that you might have been trying to type, though I maintain that iOS’s autocorrect system is still in need of an overhaul; for example, if you go back to correct a word you’ve already typed, the alternate suggestion system doesn’t seem to work quite as well. It’s also worth noting that, by default, tapping delete when you get the wrong word will delete the entire word, not just the last character, though you can change that option in Settings > General > Keyboard.
While bouncing back and forth between swipe- and tap-typing is seamless, this is also the source of my biggest frustration with QuickPath: You can’t swipe your way to any character that’s not on the main keyboard (i.e. numbers or punctuation). Right now, that gear-shifting slows my brain down a bit, but it’s something that I imagine I’ll adapt to in time.
Overall, I think the addition of QuickPath is a welcome one, though there remains the question of how many new users will be willing to change up their habits and how many users of existing third-party keyboard apps will give up the other advantages they offer. More to the point, though, I remain hopeful that Apple’s willingness to add a feature like swipe-typing means that it might actually improve other keyboard features that have remained stagnant for the last several years—but I suppose we’ll have to wait until iOS 14 for those.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]
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