Microsoft's New One-Handed iOS Keyboard is Here to Save Your Thumbs

By Bryan Menegus on at

As someone who solely uses his iPhone one-handed (harking back to my T9 flip-phone days), I’m excited about Microsoft’s new Word Flow keyboard, which offers offers a solution to the sometimes annoying thumb-travel distance of the standard iOS keyboard. It comes with a curved, one-handed mode that looks futuristic and supports both tapping and swiping across words. It sounds good — but does it actually work?

For the most part, yes. The tapping is accurate, even if swiping tends to get lost on longer words. The new keyboard remedies the tiny, difficult-to-miss spacebar on the iOS standard by devoting a huge chunk of real estate to spaces in the corner, right where your thumb naturally rests. Most importantly, your thumb is no longer stretching to the opposite side of the screen to hunt for an “a” or an “s”. Not today, carpal tunnel!

Better travel comes at the expense of smaller keys for individual letters, although Word Flow does guess what you’re trying to type correctly most of the time — unless you truly butcher the spelling. Punctuation is currently limited to full stops, commas, question marks, and exclamation points. The predictive text at the top of the keyboard is often cut off on smaller screens — Dalmatian, for instance, displays as Da...tian — forcing you to trust that the robot knows you want to be texting about dogs instead of Damascus steel swords. Word Flow also takes up slightly more vertical real estate than the iOS keyboard, so 5 and SE users might find it suffocating.

Word Flow claims your texting patterns over time, but I simply haven’t written enough with it yet to definitively say how well. Regardless, the breaking-in period of a keyboard that looks this different was not nearly as long as expected and Word Flow, in spite of some obvious drawbacks, is a joy to use. Download it here, if you’re so inclined.