Last night, we revealed some of the first screenshots of the new Word Flow keyboard that is in private beta testing for the iPhone.
Today, we can add a bit more information to that including some images of the one-handed mode with the new Arc mode that is available too.
Arc mode is a one-handed option that lets users align the keyboard to the left or right side of the screen. It then curves the keyboard around presumably to shorten the distance that a user's thumb will have to reach for letters on the edge. The motion is likely more natural for the end-user due to the orientation of the keyboard when using it one-handed.
On Windows 10 Mobile, there is also a one-handed mode where the keyboard shifts to the right or left of the display, but it does not curve. Users can also control the size of the keyboard and move it around the screen freely. (Windows Phone users can read our how-to and deep dive into that feature right here).
Additionally, we can now confirm that so-called Shape writing aka swiping on the Word Flow keyboard is present despite our earlier doubt. Shape writing is a subset of features in Word Flow as text prediction is the real core aspect of Microsoft's technology.
Now, before everyone gets into a tizzy, our beta tester did have this to say about the experience so far:
"In my initial tests - our native WP keyboard and the stock iOS one are way better than Word Flow for iOS."
Granted, Word Flow is still in beta with an expected release date in June, and this is just one person's initial opinion. However, as of now, at least one users is not overly impressed with the new keyboard from Microsoft. Things could still improve over the coming months, but iOS is well-known to have some issues when using third-party keyboard e.g. reverting to default when a user did not intend to do so and some performance issues.
Nonetheless, Shape writing is something that Windows 10 users have been asking for ever since the OS's release last year. While using large-screen devices Shape writing does not make much sense, at least on tablets like the Surface 3 and others the option to at least use Shape writing seems like it would be a no-brainer. As to why it is not present on Windows 10 and if that will change in the future we are not too sure.
For what it is worth, Word Flow for iOS is only intended for use on the iPhone and not the iPad at this time.
Another novelty feature with the iPhone version of Word Flow is the ability to set background images and themes for the keyboard. Although the function serves no practical use, many people enjoy the ability, and it would be fun to have on Windows 10 and Mobile as well. Indeed, on Android, there is a booming market in selling in-app purchases for these themes where companies give the primary product – the keyboard – away for free.
Will Microsoft bring feature parity back to Windows 10? It's a good question one that would make sense for Microsoft to follow through on, but going by their past track record and knowing these are separate teams working on these projects we are not too hopeful.