All that you want to know about iOS 8 third-party keyboard apps

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The arrival of iOS8 brings a sigh of relief and rush of excitement for the keyboard app makers as they finally get a little creak to enter into the magical realm of OEM. Thanks to the iOS 8, it is no longer the virgin and pristine territory of Apple. The QWERTY keyboard gets the twist and how! You no longer have to go through the entire emoticon but can now auto predict it. You can get a keyboard that is capable to write in GIF! Yes, you heard it right, now you can.

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So, before you think that we are playing a cruel joke on you and you scream yourself hoarse, here are some of the apps that enable you to type as the Android users do. I am sure these will do well enough as proof that we ain’t no joking, man! This also brings you information on their ‘Full Access’ status and highlights key points with respect to their privacy policy.

SwiftKey

Cost of app: Free of cost

Permissions Needed: It needs Full Access to be able to perform to its true potential. In the lack of the access, all it can do is basic typing which includes SwiftKey flow function and word prediction. For the profile sync and cloud back up, the app requires the Full Access which it needs to communicate with the container app where all the key elements are stored such as auto correct, auto capitalise, completions and quick period to name a few. This also allows the developers to scale up the support for languages other than English without having to do a manual update. Android users are also using freemium Android app where they can purchase different themes and most likely, the in-app payments for Apple users can also be introduced in near future.

Privacy Policy: It says that it captures keystroke data but its system anonymizes it before sharing it with any third party. According to the spoc, the system is designed in a manner to avoid capturing any sensitive information.

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Swype

Cost of app: $0.99

Permissions Needed: Swype has recently updated itself as the version which requires Full Access which it says is needed for Guided Access mode comprising accuracy and speed.

Privacy Policy: Swype collects whatever you type on the device itself. However, it does state that it does not capture any additional data in case Full Access is granted.

Fleksy

Cost of app: $0.99

Permissions Needed: It is also a Full Access keyboard app which it needs to connect with Apple users’ social websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Gmail to enhance accuracy by predicting the language based on personal preferences. For added functions like additional support for language, changing themes, tweaking the keyboard size, auto correction and emoji, you need to grant Full Access to Flesky.

Privacy Policy: As per the company, it does not store any sensitive information of the users apart from the generic information for language modelling to enhance user experience. Flesky also does not share any information with the third parties too.

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Minuum

Cost of app: $0.99

Permissions Needed: It requires Full Access to remember keyboard customization set by users and for audio preferences. Apart from reading and writing to the disc for keyboard customization as well as to play sound, Minuum is completely able to work with its core functionality, access or no access.

Privacy Policy: According to Minuum, it does not capture any sensitive data such as credit card details or password. Though, the company can share the aggregated anonymized keystroke information with third parties.

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How to Add Third-Party Keyboard to the Native Apple Keyboard?

Well, the bummer is that you will be still dealing with the traditional iOS keyboard and the permission structure is going to be bit tricky. So, here is the lowdown to help you with adding and setting up third-party keyboard.

Go to Apple App Store and find a keyboard of your choice from the exhaustive nine alternatives that are equally tempting and hard to resist. Once you have gone through this hard task and downloaded the desired keyboard, the half battle is won.

For the rest of it, go to iOS 8 interface settings and follow the below path:

Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add the new keyboard

The last step will show the app you have downloaded. Click on it to add to it to the active keyboard. There should be another arrow displaying right next to the name of the keyboard to enable it to allow ‘complete access.’ This will ensure complete functionality. Though, this is not required but the lack of full access can cut down on the features drastically.

Let us also let you in on the fact that setting up a third party app keyboard on Apple is not going to be any easier. It is as if Apple wants you to go through this process and make you think hard enough to assess if you really want to do this. In its defence, the Cupertino based company says that it does not want the third-party app mingles with the core experience of the Apple keyboard. It also does not want the users to get into the situation where they do not know the route of coming back to the original QWERTY keyboard of Apple.

Usually, users have to tap the globe icon to be able to toggle. In some keyboards, it could be pressing the globe icon and the function key together. To enable this on iPhone, you need to tap on the globe which will give you a menu overview of your keyboards. You can tap on the one you want to go with. Some users have reported it to be a bit technical and as not-so-smooth experience but given its early stage, we can hope it to be manageable in later stages.

What does ‘Allow Full Access’ mean on iOS keyboard permissions?

 It is to be noted that every third-party iOS 8 based keyboard is different in terms of permissions. Their functionality depends on the permission they need. Some of the keyboards need to reach outside the sandbox of keyboard interface whereas some can function within it. The former types need ‘Allow Full Access’ to kick in.

A keyboard app needs Full Access to connect to the Internet or to communicate to another app which could be its container app on the device. Apple has clearly stated that the third-party app should be able to perform basic duties without having the need of Full Access as it may mean great responsibilities on the developers’ part. Clearly because this can be misused to get keystroke data (whatever you type) which pose data and privacy threat to the users. So, before you give any third party keyboard app Full Access, make sure it is a reputed one and have clear privacy policy in place. The reputed developers won’t need or capture the data, if they do at all, that will be to enhance user experience. Make sure the third-party makers anonymize and aggregate data before sharing it and do not store any password or credit card details.

So, after all this, if this Full Access thing does not look like your cup of tea, you can totally avoid it. However, we need to give Apple the credit of stressing on the security and privacy of its users. It is your choice to finally give the access or not as the keyboard apps will work but not to their true potential and cannot be used for keylogging whatever you type.

Why does not Apple want its third-party app to do the keylogging?

When you try to as much as add the keyboard to the iOS 8 keyboard, Apple throws up a couple of warning, one of which goes like:

“When using one of these keyboards, the keyboard can access all the data you type.”

If you have time, you can also click on “Third-Party Keyboards & Privacy” to know more about this. This page goes on to warn you thus, “If you enable Full Access, developers are permitted to access, collect and transmit the data you type. In addition, if the third-party keyboard has your permission to access location, photos, or other personal data, the keyboard can also collect and transmit that information to the keyboard developers’ servers. If you disable Full Access the keyboard’s developer may be able to access, collect and transmit what was typed while the network access was disabled.”

Irrespective of this, if you “choose” to allow ‘Full Access’, you will get a pop-up message which repeats the warning and letting you aware that dude, this could be your address or credit card detail too! By doing this Apple is trying to keep itself covered of security implications that may arise in future. It also wants its users to be fully aware of the implications; who might end up compromising a lot in the case keyboard app captures the keystroke data. So, it is up to the users to approve or deny the Full Access.

The security warnings provided by the OEMs are very general and is not on the behalf of third-party app developers. SwiftKey feels that this kind of warning can ruin the purpose of developing the keyboard app as it scares the customers away and misleads them. The makers insist that they have their security systems in place to prevent data capturing of sensitive information such as credit card details and passwords. Please note that SwiftKey needs Full Access to for proper functionality.

If you ask us, we feel that Apple is doing its work and it is good for customers to make an informed decision. But this should not temper with the overall purpose and tend to be more informative than dismissive in nature. Also, the generic warnings tend to get ignored by users after a while, so, these need to be improved a bit for more impact.

The power is in your hands to choose the one among privacy, permission and keyboard apps:

So, you won’t listen right? 🙂

Go ahead and download the third-party keyboard to add it to the iOS 8 device. However, we suggest you to be completely sure of the reputation of the developers and company. Because despite the strict instructions issued by the OEM in the form of Apple’s keyboard developer guidelines, it cannot have an influence or control over the moral and ethical code of developers. So, making a call about to be or not to be is in your hand.

Apple iOS does not keylog the data you type. This is unique feature which even Android users crave for.

So, before you make the final move, assess, analyze and ascertain the security aspects of the third-party keyboard apps.

Abhilash Thakur is the founder of iDeviceDog.com who has a keen eye on news, rumors and all the unusual stuff that happens around iPhone and iPad. Google

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