Alongside the recent update to Launch Center Pro, iOS users were introduced to a new kind of keyboard that has the potential to change how users use their devices. Users have had the chance to experience different keyboards on an app-to-app basis, such as the added functionality row in Editorial or Byword. Fleksy, on the other hand, has been designed for use in many different apps and I'm just about sold on the idea of system-wide integration. With its new SDK, we might be seeing Fleksy integration at a more prevalent level in the months to come.
Fleksy was originally designed as a standalone app in the iOS App Store to improve how visually impaired individuals interacted with their devices. Fleksy utilizes algorithms to predict intended typing and its design allows for a much larger keyboard (in comparison to Apple's stock iOS keyboard) with larger buttons. It also utilizes swipes and gestures to determine which word the typist intended to type, to input punctuation and to delete entire words. Finally, Fleksy has a unique in-app dictionary that can be taught words not found in standard dictionaries to speed up the typing process. Overall, Fleksy introduces bits of technology to improve previously frustrating experiences with the standard iOS keyboard.
Through my experience over the last couple of days, Fleksy is undoubtedly an improvement in corrective typing over Apple's stock auto-correction system. I don't have statistics, but I would say that Fleksy is successful 75 to 80 percent of the time in predicting what I intended to type. In contrast, I would argue Apple's auto-correct system chooses the correct word about 55 to 60 percent of the time. As a result, I'm not only able to type faster and with better accuracy, I'm also able to get my thoughts into words at a far faster pace — something that often causes my brain to lose focus. I can't tell you how many times my brain has had to quit creating ideas to check over my typing for errors. This is sometimes a good thing and sometimes a bad thing.
Fleksy's learning curve is steeper than many may hope for — I wouldn't be surprised if it forced some heavy iOS users to drop Fleksy-use completely. Swiping left to delete a word is very intuitive, but it's not what we have taught ourselves to do. Muscle memory kicks in when I misspell a word. After trying to backspace the letter I mistyped, I often hit the "P" key four times before realizing the delete key is beside the space bar. This is only exacerbated by the lack of division between keyboard buttons; the iOS 7-inspired design leaves users to guess where exactly the "S" key ends and where the "D" key begins. Although a trivial problem, it has led me to mistype specific letters.
Learning curve aside, Fleksy has major potential to change the way we type on our touch screen devices. Fleksy is intriguing on the iPhone because it allows for more accurate typing while on the go and while attention is divided. One-handed no-look typing may even improve safety on our sidewalks.
On the other hand, I think Fleksy's true potential lies on the tablet. Of the few aspects that hinder high levels of productivity on an iPad, the smaller touch-screen keyboard reigns king in pushing away more users than it brings in. Few people will trade an external keyboard for an iPad keyboard. But with Fleksy, corrective algorithms and a bigger on-screen keyboard has led to similar WPM results as an external Apple Wireless keyboard. With an external keyboard, I can achieve between 90 and 100 WPM consistently. With Fleksy, I would approximate that I can reach between 60 and 70 WPM. At this time, I don't believe there is a way to test how fast I can type with Fleksy objectively and, therefore, this is an educated guess. Regardless, using Fleksy on the iPad has led to a substantial improvement over the stock iOS keyboard.
My biggest gripe with Fleksy on the iPad is the position of the space bar. I understand Apple's keyboard is not something everyone should emulate. But if there is one thing Apple gets right on its iPad keyboard, it's the position of the space bar. Fleksy's space bar needs to be moved to the right about a quarter to half an inch. The delete key could be shrunk slightly (it almost seems faster to just delete the misspelled word via a leftward swipe and retype the entire word) and the space bar could grow slightly. Simple fix. I vaguely remember Apple having to make this improvement early on as well.
Therefore, I think Fleksy is best suited inside of quick note-taking applications like Drafts and Scratch, inside of utility apps like Launch Center Pro and inside of text editors like Byword, iA Writer and Editorial. I could see Fleksy support in Editorial as a serious step in the right direction for higher adoption rates of Fleksy. Combined with the incredible scrolling cursor in Editorial, Fleksy would drastically improve how fast you could type in Editorial while on the go.
So, colour me impressed with Fleksy at this point in time. I have it prompted in all of my actions in Launch Center Pro and I love the idea of utilizing it at a greater level on my iPad. Currently, however, you can only type inside of Fleksy's standalone app on the iPad and copy and clear the contents before pasting it into another application. This workaround takes too much time and I will continue to use the stock iOS keyboard on the iPad. In the meantime, I can't wait for more integration in my favourite apps. I doubt Fleksy will find system-wide integration because it is up to other third party developers to implement their keyboard and because I doubt Apple will budge on such a system-wide aspect. Regardless, if either third party developers or Apple does implement Fleksy, all iOS users will have the chance to experience faster typing speeds and improved typing recognition.