iOS Bulks Up with iOS 8

On June 2, at its Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC), Apple unveiled the next version of its iOS mobile operating system among many other announcements. iOS 8 will introduce a bevy of features, many of which have huge platform implications.

Many of the new features, both consumer-facing and developer-oriented, seem to be pointed squarely at the “power users”. Such users are the ones who may have switched to or prefer Android because of a lot of capabilities in that operating system which iOS did not have or allow until now. But let’s just consider it the natural evolution of the iOS platform, now at over 800 million users (a stat Apple CEO Tim Cook stated in his keynote at the event).

Let’s take a look at some of the key features that Android and to a lesser extent, Windows Phone offer, which lure customers to those platforms, and how iOS 8 has responded to those.

  • Third party keyboards
  • Actionable notifications
  • Widgets
  • App-to-app communication and sharing
  • Google services, including the contextual Google Now
  • Larger choice of devices of various form factors, mostly larger screens

Keyboard improvements

Windows Phone introduced Word Flow, which is to this day, the best predictive keyboard I have used. It is a way by which the system can provide the next few words that you may be about to type, based on what you start typing. For example, if you type “how are”, there is a good chance you want to type “you” next, and the predictive nature of the keyboard will prompt “you”, and maybe a couple of other options like “things” or “the”. iOS gets such a feature finally. It is very similar in nature to Word Flow but obviously it is something the iOS keyboard has missed all this time. No more.

iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard
iOS 8 Predictive Keyboard

Third-party keyboards

In what I thought was a surprising move, Apple also announced that they are going to let third parties provide their keyboards so customers can replace the system keyboard with a third-party keyboard. That is huge because the likes of Swiftkey and Swype have made a name for themselves in the Android world, and users of those keyboards claimed it is a big enough reason for them not to move back to iOS. Already, several key names have announced their keyboards are coming to iOS 8, which is not surprising at all.

iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards
iOS 8 Third Party Keyboards

Interactive notifications

Apple’s Notification Center, while a decent imitation of Android’s notification center, is a bit clunky. Even the upcoming Action Center in Windows Phone 8.1 does a better job managing notifications. So it is no surprise that Apple decided to make some changes and one of the big changes is the interactive notifications. Android has this feature already, where quick actions can be taken on notifications that land in the notification center, without opening the apps. Interactive notifications aim to do the same, and more importantly, Apple has decided to open it up to third parties from day one. That means, developers can enable quick actions like Facebook’s Like and Comment, Twitter’s Retweet and Replies, etc. directly in the Notification Center. Obviously it is a big deal on Android because of the productivity gains, and it was about time iOS implemented the same. (As a part-time Windows Phone user, I do hope this feature is on its way on that platform as well. It is badly needed.)

iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Calendar
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Mail
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications Messages
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party
iOS 8 Interactive Notifications 3rd Party


The other big improvement in the iOS Notification Center comes in the form of widgets. This has been another ding against iOS until now because Windows Phone first introduced Live Tiles which enable quick information that app developers can provide to customers via the app icon(s) flipping and updating. Android later added widgets which were sub-sections of the apps that could be placed on a home screen and provided snippets to live information to the customers. With Widgets, iOS 8 somewhat addresses this “gap” by enabling developers to provide live updates, although in the Notification Center, not in the app icon or on the home screen like the competition. So the widget will look like a notification but it will have more real estate and will be able to take more forms vs. a text update. For example, score updates during a game could show the two team names and scores by quarter.

iOS 8 Widgets
iOS 8 Widgets

This is hugely welcome news, for customers and developers alike. For customers, it means more than just text updates and for developers, it is somewhat of a parity with other platforms as well as another way to keep their customers engaged with the app.

As for app-to-app communication, Apple has made it possible for apps to communicate and share data with each other. Although the details are more important than the announcement in terms of how useful this feature is, it is remarkable that after so many years of keep each app limited to itself, Apple has decided to enable inter-app communication which has been a stable in Android as well as Windows 8 and Windows Phone.

When it comes to Google services, they are already available on iOS in the form of various apps, including Google Now. Although this has prompted many customers to consider Android, where the integration with the phone is even tighter, I suspect it will also make it easier for them to make the return trip going from Android back to iOS.

Finally, although perhaps it may be an even more compelling reason for normal users to try Android, there is this thing about larger screen phones. It is rumored and by now almost a given that Apple will be introducing phones with larger screens this Fall, which is usually when they update their hardware. A larger screen iPhone will almost certainly be a hit, if the popularity of large screen devices running Android are any indication. It will be interesting to see how Apple handles the application UI. When they introduced the iPad, they had an elegant (although ugly) option of a “2x” mode. It will be interesting how they handle the larger real estate and yet, make developers’ work to address the larger screen, minimal.

Some other important updates from Apple with regard to iOS, not so much related to Android, but definitely showing signs of bulking up:

iCloud Photo Library

Until now, the Photostream feature backed up photos from all our iDevices automatically, but it was limited in storage. Apple also announced at WWDC that they are moving to an “iCloud Photo Library” which would store all photos *and* videos in full resolution, from all our iDevices. The first 5GB is free but instead of the currently expensive storage purchase options, Apple is also introducing inexpensive storage that can be purchased for what they refer to as iCloud Drive. Effectively, much like SkyDrive camera Roll in the Windows world, and Google+ Photos in the Google/Android world, the iCloud Photo Library is the entire photo library, always available in the cloud and all the Apple (Mac and iOS) devices and Windows 8 PCs. All edits made on one device are instantly available on all other devices. For a company that has not been at the forefront of well-implemented cloud services, the proof of the pudding will lie in the tasting, but as of now, it seems like Apple gets it and is on the right track. Also, in another move that shows Apple is opening up in a way they have not done traditionally, they have enabled other apps to integrate their editing tools and filters within the new Photos app.

iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library
iCloud Photo Library

Messaging updates

In what seems like a carpet bomb attack on WhatsApp, Facebook messenger and Snapchat all at once, Apple’s iMessage will now support audio messages, video messages, group messaging and automatically disappearing messages. Apple also added the ability to share location which is very handy when coordinating meetups with groups. So instead of relying on several different apps (and therefore, different logins, different address books, etc.), you can do the same with the default messaging app, only as long as everyone you communicate with is on iPhone :-) But that has been the modus operandi for Apple from day one, so there is nothing out of the ordinary in that strategy.

iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Messaging Voice
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging Details
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Group Messaging
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Share Location
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Expiring Messages
iOS 8 Messages Record Video
iOS 8 Messages Record Video

iOS 8 is claimed to be a bigger update than when Apple announced the mobile App Store and it certainly seems like there are many huge changes coming in iOS 8 for iOS developers which may end up increasing the app quality gap between iOS and Android even more than it is today. iOS is still usually the first platform for mobile developers to build their innovative solutions and experiences. With these changes, despite the rocketing market share of Android devices, Apple is poised to make it even more worthwhile for developers to build for their platform(s).


(All images via Apple’s website)

SwiftKey’s Prediction Engine Powers The Galaxy S4 Keyboard

Earlier today when Samsung announced the Galaxy S4, it did not mention anything about the inbuilt SwiftKey like keyboard. Rumors had suggested that Samsung has got the SwiftKey keyboard inbuilt on its latest Galaxy S flagship, but the lack of any word from Samsung on this matter left a doubt on everyone’s mind.

SwiftKey has now gone ahead and made the news official with a press release. This is the first time that SwiftKey will come integrated in a smartphone. In the words of SwiftKey’s CTO, “Samsung has chosen SwiftKey’s innovative keyboard technology to be at the heart of its flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S4. This is fantastic progress for our vision of bringing the best touchscreen typing experience to as many people as possible.”

However, the company does state that while Samsung does use SwiftKey’s prediction engine, the keyboard has been customized by Samsung and is not exactly the same version of the keyboard that is available on the Play Store.

Via – Engadget

SwiftKey 4 Now Available In The Play Store; Brings Flow, Additional Languages, Multimodal And More

After a couple of months of beta testing, the SwiftKey team has finally released the much awaited update to their keyboard on the Play Store. SwiftKey 4 brings with it a lot of new goodies including Flow, for a swype like typing experience. The unique feature about Flow is that it allow you to flow through words after words and construct a full sentence without the need to lift your finger from the screen.

The massive change-log of the update is below -:

  • SwiftKey Flow: World’s most accurate gesture input. Write by gliding your finger on the keyboard.
  • Multimodal – SwiftKey Flow can be mixed with tap input, with switching mid-word.
  • Mid-word completion: when you see the word you want just lift your finger off and the word will be inserted.
  • Flow Through Space: Gesture multiple words without lifting a finger, just by sliding your finger down to the space bar between words
  • Flow with next-word prediction: when you finish flowing a word, SwiftKey immediately shows you its best guesses for your next word
  • Three SwiftKey Flow candidates: tap backspace after completion of a flow to see three potential words
  • Easier corrections: Tap anywhere on any word to choose an alternative from SwiftKey’s three best guesses, based on the context and on your input
  • Better personalization: More thorough learning of your language and typing style – size of personal language profile increased in SwiftKey’s real-time prediction engine.
  • SwiftKey automatically detects writing style – SwiftKey predictions will tend towards completing your word or correcting your mistyping depending on your behavior – no need to select “rapid” or “precise” as in previous versions
  • Better predictions: Enhanced language engine, predictions in more text fields (as requested by our users)
  • 60 languages: Now including Albanian, Bosnian, Javanese, Sundanese, Thai, Vietnamese
  • Improved layouts for Russian and Korean.
  • Multi-colored ink: The on screen ‘ink’ that shows progress of a flow uses a multi-layered effect to show the beginning and end of a ‘flow’. Ink color complements the keyboard theme selected
  • Hold to delete: Long-press the delete key to remove the whole word. Deletion accelerates as you continue to hold. Slide to delete gesture can only be used when SwiftKey Flow is disabled.

Compared to the beta version, I think the prediction engine is much better in the final version. Flow-ing has been scarily accurate for me, something which the beta versions lacked.

The developers of SwiftKey are also celebrating the release of SwiftKey 4 by reducing the price of the phone and tablet version of the keyboard to $1.99 from the regular $4.99. SwiftKey is one of the best applications that Android has to offer, and if you are not using it as the stock keyboard on your Android device, you are missing out on a lot.

New SwiftKey Flow Beta Brings The Ability To Flow Nearly Anywhere, New Languages And More

The SwiftKey developers released a new beta of SwiftKey Flow today. The new beta update brings with it the ability to swipe or flow text in any text-input field, improved predictions, the usual bug-fixes, and support for new languages and layout tweaks for certain languages.

Below is the pretty massive change-log of the new beta update -:

  • Predictions (and Flow) now on in most places (exceptions: e-mail fields, passwords, anywhere where the app doesn’t behave itself with SK, fields offering their own corrections on Android versions <= 2.2)
  • Easier corrections – just tap on the word and SwiftKey will offer you 3 possibilities
  • New languages: Thai, Vietnamese, Bosnian, Albanian, Javan, Sundanese (plus those added in 3.1)
  • Features from SwiftKey 3.1: Berry theme, split layout in landscape on phones, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Georgian, Hindi, Hinglish, Irish, Macedonian, Spanish (Latin America) and Tagalog
  • New layouts for Hindi and Russian
  • Ukrainian landscape layout fixed
  • Backspacing on to the final word of a multi word prediction (Flow through space) will now give better alternatives
  • Typing style now inferred rather than a setting
  • Long press delete accelerates after the first word

Bugs fixed:

  • Flowing off shift no longer triggers a change in shift state
  • Flow no longer gets stuck when you flow off the bottom of a page
  • Quick period working after single letter words
  • Arrow key repeats
  • Learning when sending messages or tabbing between fields with the enter key fixed
  • Azeri capital i behaviour corrected
  • Estonian will now predict words containing ö
  • Fixed force close on Beta predictions
  • Flow trace no longer left behind after flowing
  • Mounting an SD card will turn predictions off only if SwiftKey language packs are stored on that SD card
  • Keyclick sounds no longer doubled
  • Haptic duration made consistent with flow on and off

With the third beta, SwiftKey Flow is nearly ready for its final release. The developers are just adding the final touches, and fixing minor bugs before, sooner or later, they release it on the Play Store.

The latest beta can be downloaded from SwiftKey Flow’s website.

Swiftkey Flow – SwiftKey’s Prediction Engine Meets Gesture Typing

Back in October, we blogged about a new Android keyboard called SwiftKey Flow. Android already has several dozen keyboards, so a new keyboard is hardly newsworthy. However, SwiftKey Flow had us salivating, simply because of the folks behind it. SwiftKey’s other keyboard – SwiftKey X, has the best prediction engine in the market. Once it gets used to your typing style, it often manages to effortlessly predict word after word. In spite this, SwiftKey never managed to cement its position as the default keyboard on my phone. The sole reason for that is its lack of support for gesture typing. Gesture typing, pioneered by Swype, is the best way to type on touchscreen mobile devices. It’s not only a lot faster, but it also takes a lot less effort, and requires only one hand.


SwiftKey Flow promises the best of both worlds. It boasts of SwiftKey’s renowned prediction engine, and supports gesture typing. After teasing us for months, SwiftKey announced the open beta of Flow a short while back. Like the original SwiftKey, the new Flow keyboard also can scan your messages, Facebook and Twitter posts, and Gmail conversations to learn your typing pattern and build up its dictionary. Flow also keeps on learning as you type. So, the longer you use, the better it gets. The Flow is meant for both tap-typing and gesture-typing. While gesture-typing is identical to Swype, it doesn’t seem to support all the bells and whistles of Swype. However, Flow does have a couple of unique tricks up its sleeve. It features instant predictions, which keep on changing as you keep swiping. And it supports continuous typing, which SwiftKey calls “Flow through Space”. You can type entire sentences without lifting your finger, by simply gliding over the space key to begin a new word.


It’s hard to review SwiftKey after using it for less than six hours. However, one thing that’s amply clear is that SwiftKey still has a long way to go because it can match Swype’s accuracy. Gesture typing often leads to wrong guesses, and since the prediction engine tries to predict the next word, going back and correcting mistakes is annoying. I also missed Swype’s convenient single tap replace while using SwiftKey. SwiftKey Flow’s biggest challenge is that it is trying to tailor itself for both tap typing and gesture typing. Right now, its split personality is holding it back.

[ Download SwiftKey Flow ]

SwiftKey Flow Combines The Power Of Swype With SwiftKey’s Prediction System

SwiftKey is hands down the best keyboard for Android devices out there. The keyboard has arguably the best prediction system out there, which makes typing on touchscreen slabs a breeze.

Today, the folks behind SwiftKey have unveiled what they have been working on for the last few months — SwiftKey Flow. Think of SwiftKey Flow as a combination of SwiftKey’s brilliant prediction system with the swyping power of Swype. The combination of these two should lead to a killer single hand typing experience on Android devices.

Here is a video of SwiftKey Flow in action -:

The best part of SwiftKey Flow is that, unlike Swype, users can either glide across the screen to enter a word or go the traditional tap an alphabet mode.

Sadly, SwiftKey Flow is not yet available for beta testing. The developers are still busy putting some final touches to the keyboard before they release a beta version to SwiftKey VIP members. Head over to SwiftKey’s website to register yourself to for an exclusive access to the beta version.

Swiftkey, Instagram, Google Maps and Google+ For Android Updated!

Over the last few days, quite a lot of Android apps have got major updates. First in the list is the best keyboard available for Android, Swiftkey. The latest update to the keyboard introduces a couple of sub-par themes, support for new languages like Malay and Urdu, and finally brings dictation support for devices running Ice Cream Sandwich or higher. There are also some bug-fixes, Jelly Bean compatibility fixes and UI enhancements. The updated version of the app is already live in the Play Store and can be downloaded from here.

Second in the list is Instagram. The v3.0 update of the app brings with it a new feature — Photo Maps! — along with a new UI for user profiles and other parts of the app. Photo Maps! allows users to browse all the photos clicked from their followers on a map which is being cited by Instagram as “a fun, new way of browsing photos”. The updated version can be downloaded from the Play Store.

Third in the list is Google maps. The latest update of the app brings some pretty major changes including improved transit information layer, a much more useful Location History feature that shows your visited places on a day-by-day basis and finally, a new icon.

Last but not the least, Google also updated the official Google+ app for Android. The latest version allows users to join Hangouts on air right from their mobile device. Other changes include shortcuts to creating new posts, events and sharing your location right on top. The updated Google+ app can be downloaded from here.

Swiftkey 3 Now Available In Google Play Market – New Look, Better Prediction Engine and Smart Space!

Yesterday, Swype released a new Beta of its keyboard with a new look, a better swiping and typing experience, better word prediction and more. Now, just a day after, TouchType has released a new major update of its popular keyboard, Swiftkey X. The update renames the keyboard to Swiftkey 3, and brings with it a new Ice Cream Sandwich like look, more themes, an improved prediction engine, and ‘Smart Space’.

Frankly, I had never liked the original Swiftkey X keyboard. The keyboard had an outstanding prediction system but the keyboard layout was nothing short of a disaster. However, I have been beta-testing Swiftkey 3 for the last two months, and I must say TouchType has done an outstanding work here. The layout of Swiftkey 3 is much, much better than Swiftkey X, and the prediction system is better than ever.

Below is the small change-log of the update that also includes some much-requested features from users -:

  • A dedicated comma key, and the <123> key in the bottom-left corner.
  • Refined Smart Punctuation pop-up for better, more consistent behavior.
  • Improved Smart Space functionality for easier email addresses and URL entry.
  • Reduced lag on some devices for a more responsive experience.
  • Reintroduction of the long-press duration setting by popular request.
  • Further improved prediction algorithms for even more accurate next word suggestions.
  • Updated gestures for easier shortcuts.
  • Several bug fixes.

The Smart Space feature also works pretty well, but don’t expect it to completely eliminate the use of a spacebar for you, If you have not already, go ahead and buy the new version of Swiftkey now. To celebrate the release of the Swiftkey 3, TouchType has reduced the price of the keyboard from its usual $3.99 to $1.99.

Shadowgun Now Available For Non-Tegra 2 Devices; Sprinkle Now Available On the Market

Remember my post on Shadowgun? One of the most visually appealing games available for Android handsets with a Tegra 2 processor? Well, the developers of the game – Madfinger – have finally updated the game to add support for non-Tegra 2 devices including Adreno, Mali-400 and PowerVR GPU based Android devices. The new version of the game is also optimized for Xperia Play!

In other Android gaming related news, Sprinkle is now finally available on the Android Market for Android gamers to enjoy! For the unknown, Sprinkle is the same game which Nvidia has used to demonstrate the power of its Tegra 2 and the upcoming Tegra 3 SoC.  The game is available in both free and paid versions.  It’s nice to see that visually pleasing games are finally coming to Android!

In the Android Apps department, Swiftkey X, one of the most popular keyboard available for the open-sourced OS. The new update adds some much-needed features like multi-touch support, support for 35 localised  languages  including Arabic and Hebrew, UX enhancements, and an improved memory usage and prediction/correction system. The update is already live on the Android Market, can can be downloaded from here