Download Word Flow for the iPhone and type faster

One of the best third-party keyboards for iOS is from Microsoft. Yeah. Microsoft. Go figure!

It’s called Word Flow, and it’s downloadable from the App Store for free. Word Flow is already available for Windows phones, but Microsoft has developed an iOS version that you can grab. The effort is the work of a group within Microsoft called Garage, the company’s experimental apps group. (Readers have pointed that at least for now, Word Flow seems to be a US-only release. Sorry, international folks!)

I use an iPhone 6, and I often find it unwieldy to type with one hand, using my thumb, as so many of us like to. It’s simply too wide for the radius of my thumb, which requires me to compensate by holding the device with two hands. Word Flow offers a clever adaptation it calls “Arc Mode.” The keyboard can be set on the lower right or left edge of the screen, in an arc, to make it easier to quickly tap keys with your thumb. Word Flow also lets you “swipe” to type words (sliding your thumb between “a” “n” and “d” will cause Word Flow to type “and,” even if you don’t lift your thumb between each key).

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Word Flow is also customizable; you can color it with different themes or even create your own. 

So why wouldn’t you want to install Word Flow? Privacy is the main reason. Like all third-party keyboards for iOS, Word Flow’s predictive text requires you to turn on “Full Access,” which lets the app store data about your keystrokes to help improve the app’s predictive text feature. Apple offers some more details about how third party keyboards work in this support document.

This does not mean that Word Flow is a keylogging application, and it does not mean that Microsoft or Apple suddenly get a full transcript of everything you’ve typed using the application. But Apple’s scare warning and its lack of communication about what Full Access actually does is enough to make some people not want to install third-party keyboards on their iOS devices. You can leave Full Access off, but Word Flow won’t be nearly as efficient at predicting what you’re typing.

Apple’s support for third-party keyboards is begrudging at best. So you’ll often have to tap the keyboard icon (which looks like a wireframe globe) a few times before you see Word Flow pop up.

Having said all that, it’s a free app, and if you’re having trouble with the built-in keyboard on an iPhone – especially a larger one, like a 6 Plus or 6S Plus – this might be exactly what you need.

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