Microsoft’s keyboard app, Word Flow, is now available for all iOS users to download from the App Store. With Apple products remaining as popular as they are, it is a smart move for Microsoft to enter into this market in order to expand their audience.
Previously the app was only offered in beta for users to sign up for, but as of today it is now available for all users to download. Being a Microsoft product, it was originally designed for use on its own platform and Windows phones, but has now been expanded.
This app claims that you will be able to text faster because of features like next word prediction, a swipe keyboard, and one-handed typing mode. In this mode, the keyboard is displayed in the shape of an arc, making it easy to use with just your thumb. You are also able to customize your keyboard with different colors and images.
One of the reasons Microsoft decided to get into the business of keyboard tech was in order to stay competitive with top smart phone rivals. Windows Phone has utilized this type of tech for years, something that sets it apart from Android and iPhone. Additionally, Apple had been slow to add features to its native keyboard system, and also blocked developers from offering system-wide keyboards. It seemed like there was an opportunity for Microsoft to grow in the phone market, thanks to features other companies didn’t have.
This changed two years ago, however, when iOS 8 launched. Developers were now able to offer system-wide keyboards, and Apple’s native keyboard also gained some new features, such as next word prediction. With this change, Apple remained the top rival of the phone market, with Android close behind. Microsoft realized its phones were not likely to challenge the top two rivals, and instead moved into the app industry to try and still make a mark on the mobile industry somehow.
Microsoft has largely kept its focus on keyboard tech, including the February $250 million purchase of SwiftKey, one of the earliest next-word prediction keyboard products. Microsoft said that this purchase would mean the SwiftKey technology could be integrated into their existing keyboard tech, as well as used in other areas of their platform. SwiftKey apps can still be downloaded on their own, which may provide more services than just the Word Flow app alone can.
Microsoft has another keyboard product, an app called Hub, which is also available to use on iOS (and has been for a while). This app is less about keyboard functions, and more about increased productivity, as it lets users who have Office products search and share items from other Microsoft services like OneDrive and SharePoint.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see if keyboard/productivity apps such as Word Flow can gain as much popularity as other apps in different areas (such as messaging apps or social media apps). With billions of monthly active users, it seems unlikely, but only time will tell.
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