Skip to main content

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.

See more

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 really only for play or iMessage over WiFi. Still the typing experience is now very much bearable. ;)
  • And the swiping experience on keyboard of windows 10 mobile is hell.
  • Tru
  • Can't believe they haven't added anything to Windows 10 Mobile keyboard after all this time or at least improved the reliability of the word flow keyboard...or even brought this to pc. Wtf is Microsoft even doing with their own platform
  • You silly English typists.  In Spanish, we use an app that can discern your words by making eyes at the front facing camera.  In Greek, the app uses the furrowing of your eyebrow to determine what you wish to say.  And in Icelandic, the app translates urinalysis into words so all you have to do is take the piss out of someone to know what they really think of you.
  • Is it normal that the keyboard switches back to Apple keyboard on password fields?
  • I consider not allowing third party keyboards to work on password fields like a way to avoid third party to steal your passwords. They don't even work on lock screen. I agree with that "feature".
  • Yes, that is an iOS restriction on 3rd party keyboards.
  • Why don't Microsoft improve mobile experience for Windows 10 users first and why they develop apps for IOS users.. MS should first focus on WP10
  • There is no WP10 for Microsoft to focus on, that is the problem. W10M on the other hand.... :P /s
  • Has Apple developed anything for Windows phone users till now??
  • I think, not even for Windows 10 Desktop
  • Just iTunes suite
  • Very interesting article, if you own an iphone. If you own a windows phone its just one more way to make us realize that MS its priorities are with IOS and not with their own products. And the sad thing is, most iOS users don't even consider using an MS service like this. They rather stick with the default apple stuff, after all everything apple is cool and everything MS sucks. Its kinda sad to see MS trying to suck up to all the IOS users, hoping they will like MS. As trump would say, Epic Fail!
  • I'm having a much worse typng experience on my Windows 10 Mobile than what I had on Android with SwiftKey..... Much, much, much worse. ​Words longer than 4-5 letters and Windows 10 Mobile starts pulling guesses out of its ass.  
  • satya nadella the most hated CEO in town, is the one who's killing our beloved platform.
    I just hate him!
    Is doing all he can to erase windows phone from the face of planet earth
  • Dear Ms, will we get a phone officially this year?? Pls concentrate on reach and market share. We can create wordflow keyboard for ios android and chrome os later after gaining the position in market.
  • "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.)" Have you tried GBoard? Since it was made available to other countries/languages it has been my main keyboard on iOS. Never crashes at least with my iPhone. I wonder why Microsoft have destroyed their own Mobile OS, I agree that comparing WP8.1 vs W10M keyboard, W10M version stinks. I have almost forgotten Windows 10 Mobile headaches, I've been a happy user of iOS for 1 year and 2 months with no need of a secondary device.
  • @satya nadella, If you keep on giving the features of windows mobile to other platforms, there is no point on being a user of windows platform.
    You are misguiding windows fans actually.
    I'm being shame. and think we don't have official YouTube app so far.
    Make ourselves better before thinking about other platforms. By the by, Satya did you get any call from apple ceo about the requirements. We have been sending you feedbacks and updates on windows 10 platform. WTF YOU DOING??
  • I don't understand why you need the official YouTube app, when there are better alternatives in the app store.
    YouTube app for windows phone is not an issue at all.
  • I'm at a loss why MS would do this. I can understand making MS services and apps available on other platforms, even doing them first or better because that gains more app/servic customers than it loses Windows Mobile customers. But things like this don't convert/gain a single MS service user while losing potential WM customers who value such a keyboard.  
  • One of the things I hate about Microsoft as a company is that the majority of their products don't function outside of the US despite there being no reason for why. This word flow keyboard is the perfect example. It's English only. Most countries have English as a first or second language. They could easily offer this in Canada and nobody would complain about the lack of Canadian English or french
  • Maybe Trump is MS' CEO, not Nadella
  • Well, it all depends on the writer's point of view. For me swipe key on my Lumia 950xl works very great. I can easily activate one hand use by holding the space bar for about 2 seconds and shift to the right or to the left.
    The keyboard for Lumia 950xl is very great far better than the one available on IOS. It has a joystick for moving the cursor, the key board on Lumia is movable, adjustable. It is very accurate to use.
  • Aww, guess what? Only available in the US. It is really hard to be a MSFT Customer outside of the US … oh well.
  • Word flow/ swipe on Windows 10, is a disaster..... I'm not sure where It's getting It's English grammer from, but it's definitely bastardised the English language.
  • Word Flow does have an auto light/dark theme. Its literally right there in one of your screen shots as well. Keyboard goes dark when dark apps request it (like Discord and Spotify), and goes light in other apps.
  • Yeah, I don't know how they missed that. It's litterally in the first screenshot at the bottom left. It works pretty well too!
  • I hated the Windows 10 Mobile keyboard on the Lumia 920.  Now that I'm using a 1520 I like the Win 10 Mobile keyboard.
  • I still love the W10M keyboard, and think it's unbeatable. Shape writing is pretty accurate, just like word predicton. The joystick thingy in the corner is so useful, and you can change in the settings if you want it on the left or right side. It can also be moved anywhere on the screen, or docked to the bottom, on any side. And what I like about it the most is that I can switch between Hungarian (my native language) German and English by the tap of a button 😉
  • Bullseye! The typing experience on W10M is the best among all platforms I've used. I can even blind type which is crazy for a keyboard without any physical feedback.
  • Quite interesting. My Windows Mobile is too good. Shows how well it is working on other platforms. However, with time, this features would roll to Windows mobile.
  • iOS prevents voice dictation on third party keyboards, which is a shame. Makes this and most of the other third party keyboards unusable (for me).
  • iOS prevents Siri voice dictation for third party keyboards. Gboard recently released an update that has Googles voice dictation built in.
  • App hasn't been updated since early November on iOS. It doesn't have the latest emoji. Seems like Microsoft has abononed Word Flow on iOS. 
  • I much prefer Word Flow to the stock keyboard on my iPhone. I only wish MS would bring it to Android. And to Windows tablets too; would be nice on my DV8Pro, or maybe docked to the corner of a Surface for one thumb typing.
  • Recently bought an android device and I have been using gboard. I absolutely love it and it just makes me all the more upset that word flow has this feature on iOS. I would love it on my 950.
  • Windows phones are the first devices to get word flow (not referring to third party apps), right from w8.1, with guinness record of speed and accuracy.
  • Yeah I know Windows mobile has word flow. But the version on iOS is much better now.
  • why isn't this available on android as well :(
  • Lightlynunrelated but as a owner and daily user of the s7 edge and someone thats used iphe 6 plus iphone 5c and 4s the lumia 930 has by far the best feeling, typing and pleasent jeyboard ive ever used in a smart phone period. Its not even clos3 but i can only compare iphones and s7 edge with it.
  • Use it on my iphone 7 plus too.
  • Needs louder sound feedback. Makes it almost unusable because of this for me. Also, the tapping style of typing needs to be improved on too. I make more mistakes on this typing two handed than I do one handed.
  • > beats the Windows 10 version in every way I find this rather unfounded. What is "every way"? Every time is see this phrase it is just a baseless "IMHO". Sure, the keyboard is better than the stock one, but it's slow, unpredictable and less comfortable comparing to W10M I'm using every day. Your point about text prediction is biased as it requires constant use to improve, and you obviously ditched your Windows device in favor of an iPhone.
    Why this opinion piece by a platform partisan is even here?
  • A Microsoft Keyboard on an iPhone is absolutely not something I want to put on my phone. Keyboards can collect way too much data, and SwiftKey has had lots of security holes and/or breaches. This is definitely something I keep as default on a device (regardless of what OS it runs, or what Vendor it comes from). Haven't had any complaints about Apple's keyboard, so I don't really care how it compares to any other.