Microsoft Word Flow Keyboard for iOS review: A FAR better typing experience on iPhone

Thankfully, iOS supports third-party keyboards that allow you to escape Apple's typing hell, including one from Microsoft. Microsoft released a keyboard for Apple's mobile OS, called Word Flow Keyboard (opens in new tab), bringing the beloved keyboard from Windows phone to iOS. When it first launched, it brought a lot of hate towards Microsoft from the Windows community, because it delivered additional features that are nowhere to be found on Microsoft's mobile platform. It was, however, well-received by the rest of the technology community.

I have publicly criticised the QuickType keyboard multiple times in the past, especially before iOS 8 where the third-party keyboard support was added, and my opinions still haven't changed.

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So, is Word Flow the solution I have been looking for? There is only one way to find out.

Getting started with Word Flow for iOS

Upon installing Word Flow for the first time, you're greeted with a welcome screen showing you how to enable the keyboard. If you've ever used a third-party keyboard on iOS, you are already familiar with this screen. Every keyboard that you install tells you to go to the settings, enable it then allow "full access" which means the keyboard will be able to show up in more text fields, which may contain sensitive information. This could be an issue for people who value their privacy but it didn't stop me.

After getting into the app you see a handful of options for personalizing it. The keyboard has a huge library of themes available by default, but if you're like me, you probably want to make your own theme by uploading a picture from the photos app. By doing that, I managed to get a nice, all-white keyboard that blends well into iOS except for dark-themed apps such as Groove Music or Discord.

How well does it work?

The Word Flow Keyboard is light-years ahead of Apple's solution, and it lets you type messages, notes and more, way faster. When using the QuickType keyboard on iOS, I often had to go back, retype something, correct wrongly-autocorrected words and get frustrated with how a few lines of text took me a couple of seconds each time to fix. That is not the case with Word Flow. As many Windows Phone users already know, the Windows Phone 8.1 keyboard had incredible typing recognition that rarely required you to double-check to make sure you didn't embarrass yourself before pressing the "send" button. Windows 10 Mobile may be a different story, but Word Flow for iOS manages to port that experience over very well. It may not have the same accuracy as its older brother from Microsoft's own platform, but it certainly is impressive how much of a difference it is compared to the stock iOS keyboard. 

Word Flow also supports swiping, which is a very useful feature once you get used to it. It allows for even faster typing than with the usual taps on the keys. Most phones support swipe input by default nowadays, including Windows 10 Mobile and most Android versions, but Apple decided to leave this highly-requested feature out for some reason and let third-party developers handle it. 

Based on my tests, the Word Flow keyboard on iOS actually beats the Windows 10 version in every way. Its predictions are helpful, swiping usually results in the words you want, typing accuracy is incredible and auto-correction is balanced. It's pretty sad to see Microsoft develop such a great keyboard while leaving its own system to rot, but the fact is, TONS of people use iOS.

Using an iPhone in the Microsoft ecosystem

Additional features in Word Flow keyboard for iOS

Word Flow comes with some really great features, in the form of a built-in search engine. We have seen this idea implemented in Google's Gboard before, and this is Microsoft's take. It features GIF and photo search, contact search, regular web search, as well as an emoji search, which is quite useful when you can't find that one emoji you want.

The keyboard includes a weird button to the right, above the "P" key. This button is used to activate the one-handed mode. As smartphones get bigger and bigger, it's almost a requirement nowadays to use two hands while typing. While it hasn't been a huge issue for me, some people really hate having to do that. The one-handed mode tries to solve that by tilting the keyboard slightly in order to fit within reach of a regular user's thumb. It certainly looks weird to use, but after using it for a few minutes, you start to get used to its unique layout. 

The one-handed mode also supports swiping, which is rare on an iOS keyboard.

The bad stuff about Word Flow Keyboard for iOS ...

If you're not in the U.S. or don't use English as your only language, you're out of luck. The keyboard is U.S.-only. This restriction can be bypassed by making a new Apple ID with the region set to the U.S., but even if you manage to download the keyboard you won't be able to use it with any other language other than American English. It doesn't even support British English. My solution for this was to use SwiftKey, another Microsoft-owned keyboard that is similar to Word Flow, as my secondary keyboard with Polish and Swedish languages (both of which I use) configured. This is far from an optimal solution, but it will have to be good enough until Microsoft decides to release the keyboard to other countries.

Unfortunately, Apple puts extreme limitations on third-party keyboard developers, which results in buggy keyboards that like to crash. This behavior is usually bearable while using only one keyboard, but using both SwiftKey and Word Flow at the same time resulted in an experience worse than Apple's QuickType Keyboard. Third-party keyboards are extremely crippled when it comes to RAM management, and having two keyboards share what little memory is available is simply not a good experience. The keyboards often crash then go back to Apple's QuickType even though it's completely disabled in settings. They freeze, lag and hang, and this solution is only recommended if you really dislike the Apple keyboard and need multiple languages. (As I do.)

I mentioned earlier that the keyboard has odd behavior in apps with a dark theme. The keyboard has only one theme, no matter what tone the system requests. Apple's QuickType keyboard has dark and light modes, with different modes used for different apps and system elements. Word Flow does not support that and displays only the theme you selected. While this is the case for most keyboards for iOS, the very popular keyboard, Nintype (opens in new tab), has proved that third-party keyboards can display individual themes for each theme mode. It just requires additional effort, which Microsoft so far hasn't put forth.

The only thing, that I could call a "solution" to this is simply giving the keyboard a dark theme, which looks less out of place in light applications than the light keyboard in dark applications. This is far from an elegant solution, but as it currently stands, you cannot do anything else about this issue.

Conclusion

Word Flow Keyboard is a great app from Microsoft that is sadly crippled by decisions made by the company. It has a great typing experience, looks fairly good and is overall very nice to use. It's also completely free. It does not, however, support any other languages than American English. But if you happen to only speak English, this may be the best keyboard you can currently get for your iPhone. It's far better than Apple's default option.

Download Word Flow Keyboard from the App Store (opens in new tab)

Dennis Bednarz is a former writer for Windows Central and the guy behind ModMy. He has been a recognised member of the Microsoft community for years and owns everything from Lumia phones to Surface PCs. He occasionally likes to rant about Windows Phone and drink tea. You can go ahead and follow him on Twitter at @DennisBednarz

91 Comments
  • I wonder why they still do not have it available on Android, I only find the SwiftKey Keyboard that is the previous generation of this Microsoft Word Flow.  It's being diffucult to type in Android, I just want to have the same experience I have in Windows 10 mobile, or at least very similar.
  • Had to get a cheap secondary Android for some work apps (and ok offline Netflix/Prime/iPlayer)..agree on the keyboard. AND why do Android Emoji/Emoticons all look like the love child of a **** and Mr Blobby? Do any of the keyboards just like make them look normal?
  • Emoji is an OS-level feature on Android. So, emoji looks different if you're using 5.1, 6.0, or 7.0, and older versions are also quite limited in terms of the characters they have available. There other problem is that there are no real standards, so each manufacture is free do whatever they want. iOS emoji doesn't look like Windows or Android emoji. Furthermore, emoji is something that individual Android manufacturers can mess with, so while emoji on "stock" Android is quite ugly as you describe, emoji on Samsung phones (for example) looks a lot more like iOS, though still not identical.
  • Thanks, that cleared it up for me. Being a work phone won't be rooting so looks like I'm stuck with the Blobby Turds for the odd FB messenger (they just aren't very well distinguished ..fine of course once you send the message) . Still using 950XL as main phone so there is respite..
  • This site is going to need to be renamed to Microsoft central.
  •     I used WP8 keyboard, it was simply the best. People know MS has good keyboard technology because they experienced in Windows phones. I bet most of the word flow users are former windows phone users. So it is a bad idea not to maintain Windows Phone platform as good as before.   Most of the iOS user does not even know how to activate a third party keyboard. They just use default keyboard.   If you are looking for a good keyboard appI would suggest AspectKey. The recent update brings very good prediction as well as performance.   
  • Well of course it is a better experience, Microsoft executives all use iPhone
  • Long live Nutella
  • This morning I open up Gas Buddy and I get a message saying this version is expiring. I can't live without that app. This is getting out of control
  • Panos is working his ass off in a dungeon on some sort of Surface Mobile device. Unfortunately when he comes out with his master-piece he will hold it high above his head to only find that Nutella has spent his time hiding on the Starbucks board while making sexists comments and letting the Mobile division and app store disappear into the abyss.
  • But hey, the Azure division is making money so it's all groovy!
  • Actually I found it easier to use the original iPhone keyboard instead of SwiftKey. Unfortunately there is no other option, than the two mentioned, that supports my native language.
  • Why on earth isn't this on w10m? The keyboard on W10M is awful comparatively.
  • Do you really need to ask?
  • I guess not haha 😆
  • Because they took a poll of all of us left on Windows Phone. The keyboard lost by a vote of 3 to 4.
  • I have to disagree. I use both and I do not find this keyboard that great at all when compared to W10M. Not even close. Do you actually use both are you just going by the photos here?
  • I use both. Prediction on W10M is not as good. It was better on WP8. Although I'm on production ring so perhaps it has improved in newer builds? IMO integrated search and gif functionality is useful and MS is just behind here. They're behind in mobile in general so I'm not really surprised (no snark, just reality).
  • The GIF thing I kind of get although I find I barely use it. I can't switch to iOS even with this keyboard because I find text prediction (and editing) to be like the worst experience I have ever had on a mobile device. I hate it more than anything on the iPhone, it's just bad, bad bad. Text prediction is complete garbage, doesn't even get context. I dunno. This KB doesnt save iOS for me and I have had/used iPhones since 5S with both regular and Plus (using a 7 Plus these days on second SIM).
  • Idk y they got rid of the wp 7.5 keyboard that's been hands down the best keyboard I ever used
  • I personally feel text prediction with WordFlow on iOS is MILES better than WM. It's not even close IMO. I do agree text editing is weird on iOS but I think that its just different. I can definitely say that cursor manipulation and selecting all text is better on iOS. However, capitalization after writing a word is better on WM but I think that's about it. iOS' saving grace is apps and stability. Everything else can be forgiven for those reasons.
  • I'm having a horrid experience with samsungs text prediction on my note 5 using their default keyboard, I tried to use g board but samsung keyboard kept taking over half the time like a damn parasite. I loved my 950 keyboard and miss it every day.
  • We were only talking about iOS and WM tho. Android has it's own issues but I'm no longer familiar with them.
  • I agree with you.  I loved W10M keyboard.  WordFlow is not as good as it.  However, it definitely beats the native iPhone experience.
  • I noticed your comment received 2 down-votes. It happens to me as well. So, almost any post against Microsoft (and no, that is not trolling) gets down-votes. I'm pretty sure I will receive a couple of down-votes for this comment, but I don't care. MS receive from us money and loyalty, but at the end, money is the real priority.
     
  • I agree. Big user of swipe on keyboard here. Any word more than 6 characters in length, it's 50-50 chance of it getting it right/wrong. Both Google and Swype are better. Funny thing is, I do not remember accuracy being an issue early on, it turned bad later.
  • Swiftkey for Win10 !!!!!!
  • haha. Where is the W10M version of this?
  • A W10M version is pointless, since MS is creating a full (and better) W10M experience on iOS and Android. Yay!!!
     
  • If only they'd release a decent keyboard for Windows tablets.
  • This!!!
  • If only...
  • Yes this is my favorite keyboard for iOS! I use it all the time, and I love it. It strongly reminds me of the 8.1 keyboard that was so good.
  • Bring WordFlow to Android! Swiftkey sucks by comparison.
  • I want it badly on Android. PLEASE MS
  • I'm jealous. I like the win8/8.1 keyboard better than w10m in every way, except for the pointer stick in w10m, which I really like. How could they get so many things right in 8/8.1 but make 10 seem so unfinished and unrefined Is beyond me. Word prediction, swipe guesses, learning to predict *YOUR* personal language, and even typing accuracy is so much better on 8/8.1. And now you get a better Microsoft typing experience on iOS than on windows. Geez. I'm bummed. I'll be with windows till the bitter end, but I can't say I'm NOT jealous here and there.
  • WM 8.x was a full mobile OS. It was a terminated product, stable, reliable and fast. W10M was born as a beta OS, and it's still a beta OS. It relies on an endless cycle of fixes-for-old-bugs and new-bugs-from-fixes. It should be renamed to BugOS
  • Nah WP past 8.0 always felt unfinished compared to al versions before it
  • It's absurd that they offer this on iOS, but not on W10M with all of these features.  ESPECIALLY since they have the Islandwood app bridge.  How in the world do they expect devs to port their iOS apps to W10M, when MICROSOFT THEMSELVES WON'T TAKE THE TIME TO DO IT WITH THEIR OWN APPS!!!!  This is absolutely infuriating, and almost enough to make me regret buying my L950.  Such crap....
  • I am sure you didn't buy the 950 expecting Microsoft to fully support it, right? All the previous generations of phones should have made it clear that Microsoft isn't trustworthy when it comes to mobile.
  • No, I didn't expect full support.  Doesn't mean that it's not infuriating to see them give more features to a competing OS, than their own OS.  And then act like they're suprised when W10M is at 1%, and nobody is using their app bridges, that they themselves won't use.  I love the UI vs everything else, and it's just so dammed irritating to see them screw it up, and it feels like it's intentional.
  • Themes and radial mode apart this keyboard is no way better than W10M's. I'm still struggling with typing on my iPhone 7 and can blind type on my 950. Hands down typing experience is the best on W10M.
  • Ok, I'll try it.  SwiftKey made my iPhone really unstable.  (Or could be that iOS made SwiftKey garbage.) So I'm looking for another option.
  • Word Flow is very stable.
  • I mostly love Word Flow on my iPhone 5S, much more than SwiftKey and especially the default QuickType. Still I prefer the keyboard on my Windows phone. The iOS Word Flow is sometimes too wrong with its word choice/autocorrect, and it's missing the feature to change case by highlighting the word then touching Shift. The one-handed curvy thing is actually kind of fun. Why on earth did Apple hide ALL of the punctuation on another screen!?
  • Still doesn't have the shift to capital letter option huh?  That's one of my favorites!
  • Yeah, I miss it when I use my iPhone for something, which is r