The built-in keyboards for the iPhone and iPad can be difficult to work with, making third-party keyboard apps all the more useful. Listed below are third-party keyboard apps that will help you use your iPad or iPhone for work, communication, or browsing. They will help you type faster and more accurately and allow you to express yourself better, with options for emojis, stickers, GIFs, and more.
Installing Third-Party iOS Keyboards
Third-party iOS keyboard apps for the iPhone and iPad are downloaded from the iOS App Store. The keyboards may come bundled in a larger app or may be dedicated to the keyboard.
Once an app is downloaded, you’ll need to enable the keyboard. Navigate to “Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Keyboards -> Add New Keyboard …” and choose the keyboard you want to enable from the list in the middle of the screen. You will most likely need to enable it in the app before enabling it in Settings.
When you’re ready to type with your new keyboard, tap the globe icon in the lower left of the default keyboard. This will automatically cycle to the next keyboard on the list, starting with Apple’s emoji keyboard, and continue cycling through the list of installed keyboards. To pick from a list, press and hold the globe icon.
To remove a keyboard from your device, tap “Edit,” then the red minus sign next to the keyboard you want to delete. You can also tap the “Edit” button to change the order of the keyboards, which controls the order in which they appear when cycling through keyboards with the globe button.
Some of these keyboards also require you to enable “Full Access” in your Keyboard settings. To allow full access for a keyboard, navigate to “Settings -> General -> Keyboard -> Keyboards -> Keyboard Name” and toggle “Allow Full Access.” This is necessary for the advanced features of most keyboards like typing suggestions, grammatical errors, and extra features like GIFs.
It’s crucial that you only enable full access for developers you trust with all your data. The keyboard creator can access every character you type, potentially including sensitive information like passwords and banking details. Security-conscious users should only type sensitive information using the default Apple keyboard to avoid any potential issues with data collection or keylogging.
The Grammarly keyboard brings the power of Grammarly’s proofreading tools to iOS. When you type with the Grammarly keyboard, it scans for mistakes and errors in grammar, spelling, and usage, offering suggestions and corrections in nearly real-time.
You can also use the Grammarly keyboard to check the text that’s already written. Just select the Grammarly keyboard, then tap the “Checky My Text” button on the bottom left to have the app scan your text for errors and provide the opportunity to make corrections. If you’re using a hardware keyboard with your iPad, this is the only way it will check your text – it won’t scan as you type. A paid subscription will check for more than just the basics, but it is in no way necessary.
2. Google Gboard
Search directly from Google Gboard by tapping the Google icon on the left above the keyboard, which automatically searches for the detected text you have typed, unless you opt for Translate, YouTube, or Maps instead. You can search the emoji library by their names and benefit from Google’s services’ superpowers through AI-predicted text selection and highly capable voice-to-text typing.
Considering Google’s reputation as an all-seeing eye, it’s not surprising that GBoard mines your typed text for data about you. That data can be used to target ads more effectively. It’s not clear what or how much data from GBoard is uploaded to Google’s servers.
3. Microsoft SwiftKey Keyboard
The long-reigning king of the third-party keyboard world, Microsoft SwiftKey Keyboard brings multiple headline features to your keyboard. It includes swiping entry, voice typing, autocorrect, AI-powered suggestions, cloud backup for customized features and your personal autocorrect library, a variety of fully adjustable themes, and searchable emojis and GIFs. It’s reliable and capable and will show you productivity stats, so it should be the first stop for anyone testing third-party iOS keyboards.
4. Hanx Writer
Are you a fan of Tom Hanks? He’s a fan of keyboards – or rather old-timey typewriters. The Hanx Writer keyboard app allows you to type with the look and feel of a typewriter. Using it with a hardware keyboard, you can type as normal with the sounds of a typewriter. If you type with the onboard keyboard, it looks and sounds like a typewriter, but it’s hard to copy the feel, since it’s on your screen. Using it in other apps is very buggy, but it can be fun to pull out and type within the app itself. It’s a free app, but you can pay to have the option of more typewriters to choose from. It’s more fun than useful.
5. GIF Keyboard
Unlike the other keyboards, GIF Keyboard is an accessory keyboard, not a fully-usable keyboard for text entry. It’s solely for finding and sharing GIFs. They’re separated into useful categories for quick browsing, and you can search for a specific GIF using a text search, too. These images can be shared in Messages or added just about anywhere default text input is available.
6. Symbol Keyboard for Texting
Like GIF Keyboard, Symbol Keyboard for Texting is also an accessory keyboard and not a fully-usable one for entering text. This one includes nearly every symbol you can think of. We’re not talking about emoji – we’re talking old-style, back to the days before emoji, with what was always included on the Dingbats font, such as arrows, telephones, scissors, etc. Unicode characters are included as well, along with currency symbols and the characters from several languages. Egyptian Hieroglyphs are included as well in the more than 50,000 symbols on this keyboard app. If you always struggle to find the º, €, and ✔︎, this app is for you.
7. FastKey: Keyboard Expander
FastKey: Keyboard Expander will save you from typing repetitive phrases. It’s another accessory keyboard. Instead of giving you a character layout, it allows you to save phrases and sections of type with a shortcut phrase. I use it daily for some of the sections of text I use while writing, editing, and answering email. With a hardware keyboard, you need to switch from that keyboard to the onboard keyboard, which is a layout of the shortcuts. Do this by tapping the key that looks like a keyboard.
SwiftKey is a reliable and usable first choice. Gboard scores points, too, but has some privacy concerns, and Grammarly is unbeatable as a writing/editing aid. The remaining keyboard apps for the iPhone and iPad make good accessories to your default options, whether working or looking for some fun. Further customize your device by changing the iMessage bubble color and adjusting the share sheet to your needs.