Its battery life (an iPhone that lasts a day on a single charge) and its camera have made the iPhone 6s Plus perhaps my favourite iPhone of all time. But that has not stopped me from vehemently cursing it at least once a day. The reason? Form factor. The 6s Plus (and its almost similarly sized predecessor, the 6 Plus) are rather large devices – larger than even some devices which have bigger displays than them. And nowhere does this come to the fore more forcefully than when you don that most fundamental of smartphones tasks – typing. Be it a humble SMS, a complex ‘oh-cruel-world’ status update on Social Media or a quick reminder over e-mail or WhatsApp Messenger, out comes my second hand to support the one burdened by holding the device. As one of my friends remarked, “It has turned us into BlackBerry Boys – both thumbs on the keyboard while typing.”
Of course, Apple has attempted to rectify this to an extent with its ‘double-tap home button to bring the upper part of the display closer to you’ short cut, but that does not really help typing. For me and many others, the only way of being able to type one-handed on the 6s Plus is to use dictation, which is rather effective, but a trifle loud.
Fortunately, Microsoft (yes, we get the irony) has come to our aid with its Word Flow keyboard. At the time of writing, it was available only in the US App Store, but a friend kindly downloaded it on to our 6s Plus (it is a hefty 87 MB download), we went to ‘keyboards’ under ‘settings’ and included it, and well, typing on the device has never really been the same since.
For while the name of the app might seem to indicate that its greatest strength is the ‘flow’ style of typing where you just move your finger without lifting from letter to letter and let the keyboard figure out which word you want to type (‘swipe typing’ some call it), what really makes it different is, well, its shape. It seems normal enough in routine mode but touch one of the two arc-like symbols on either side of the top row of the keyboard (alongside the suggested words) and pull downwards and the keyboard its arches into a semi-circle around one of the two bottom corners of the phone (Arc mode), allowing you to reach all the keys on it with just one hand. And it actually works quite well too – the keys might seem a little cramped in comparison to their normal straight layout but thanks to some very good predictive text built into the keyboard, we found ourselves rattling away at our normal typing speed of about 30-35 words per minute. Yes, the phone felt slightly more unbalanced as it was being held in only one hand but the sheer convenience of the experience more than compensated for it.
Word prediction and spellcheck is decent – you can go back and check options for previous words typed too – and the swipe to type system itself works very well, even in Arc mode. There are also plenty of emojis to choose from – just tap the smiley icon on the keyboard. And you have themes to choose from to change the appearance of the keyboard itself. Which is not to say that the keyboard is perfect. It does have its eccentricities – sometimes you need to pull down the symbol to activate Arc mode, while on others, merely touching it suffices. We also have not been able to figure out why the Enter key disappears when using the keyboard in normal mode in Twitter only to reappear in Arc mode. And then, of course, there is the little matter of there being no support for the microphone – so if you have got used to dictating notes and messages into your iPhone, you will need to go back to your previous keyboard (as simple as hitting the Globe key). You will also not get support for other languages, so if you are (like me) used to typing in Hindi on the same keyboard, forget about it for the moment.
What you will, however, get is something that in our book at least outweighs all these niggles – the ability to type comfortably with one hand on the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus. Yes, we do believe that Microsoft has delivered the killer keyboard for the largest iPhone. Pretty much a must-download if you have an iPhone 6s Plus or 6 Plus and have access to the US App Store.
Name: Word Flow Keyboard
Download from: iTunes App Store