A few months ago, Google made headlines with a smart keyboard that allowed users to perform image and GIF search using its platform. Well, not to be outdone for long, Microsoft has come up with an update to its own predictive, Word Flow keyboard application that will let it stand shoulder to shoulder with Google’s enhanced keypad.
Word Flow used to be the crown jewel among keyboards until Google took it down a few notches with its search engine integration in the Gboard. Released in spring, the keyboard offered stuff like word suggestions, arc mode to support one-handed typing, free customization options and more. The arc mode was a particular highlight of the keyboard since it allowed users to type away while holding the phone in just one hand.
Google’s Gboard om the other hand, was way beyond a mere keyboard and let users do all kinds of stuff including letting users to look up information on restaurants, news, videos, weather, GIFs, emojis amd virtually everything else. The application also lets you add search results directly into the chat — if that is what you are currently using your keyboard for.
Now Microsoft is upping the antics with the latest Bing integration that will let users search for information on restaurants, news, videos, weather, GIFs and so on — yes, similar to how Google’s Gboard functions. You can also deploy it to do other cool things such as accessing your Address Book to find contacts more easily when you need to share a phone number while using your chat or drafting a letter.
Also, Microsoft has bundled the ability to send anything your found while searching to the person at the other end of the conversation.This ability was one of Gboard’s most lauded capabilities and will let users make keep on typing without having to switch between windows. Search and simply tap what you have found to parcel it to someone. Alternatively, you can also leave it in the history for later.
Meanwhile, users can also control the cursor placement via 3D Touch. Although a minor feature, it will give iPhone users advanced functionality and provide them with another use of the much vaunted touch. Word Flow version 2.0 now also packs support for the iOS text replacement function.
However, Microsoft may need to polish the latest version of Word Flow before its completely ready. Users have been giving mixed reviews after the new update. While most of them agree that the new features are pretty cool, a number of them also say that they could have done without the additions. In fact, one user Mreeble went as far as to say that,
This is still my favorite 3rd party keyboard and I use it often, but honestly I could have done without the extra stuff they added. I’d rather select a different font or be able to control the cursor by swiping the space bar. I want a keyboard, not some tiny browser surrogate.
The app has been developed by Microsoft’s internal R&D division, Microsoft Garage, that has been known to come up with unconventional stuff all the time, some of which is taken forward by Microsoft.
Meanwhile, according to data from App Annie, Word Flow managed to leap from the #78th spot on the App store’s Utilities category in the U.S., to land at the #48 position, ahead of the Gboard, which currently stands at the #54th position. The reasoning behind developing such as keyboard is pretty straightforward. By putting the power of search literally at the user’s fingertips, you not only increase the usefulness of the keyboard but also give your search a boost. Microsoft is probably hoping to get more searches for Bing from the integration of the service to the already popular Word Flow App.
You can download the application for iOS by clicking right here.