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Apple has a secret, one-handed keyboard within the labyrinth of iOS code

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iOS Developer Steve Troughton-Smith has come up with details of a secret, one handed keyboard in iOS. The feature, as you can probably guess, has not been officially released by Apple yet and was brought to the open when Troughton-Smith hacked the iOS Simulator to demo it.

Rumors of the keyboard started right about the time Apple released the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus. The devices featured screen sizes that were significantly larger than that of their predecessors and as such, one handed operation using the regular keyboard could often turn out to be a pain. Turns out that Apple has had provisions for a one handed keyboard all along and it didn’t tell us.

Tweeting on the topic, Troughton Smith said,

Today’s fun hack (been there since at least iOS 8); the iOS keyboard has an unused left/right one-handed mode. Activated by edge-swipe.

Apple had apparently been testing the feature since iOS 8 — perhaps in anticipation of its new larger lineup. However, the company has not shipped it yet.

It is actually a very interesting feature of iOS source code. Apple puts in a lot of stuff that does not show up on the surface and is activated later, when and as per the company’s strategy. This one-handed keyboard appears to be cut from the same cloth.

The one-hand keyboard was shown to be activated by an edge swipe on the keys. The swipe results in a brand new sidebar of cut/copy/paste controls, while keys on one side are pressed together to result in a more compact pad. The pad can be used one-handedly and indeed, Apple has also made provisions for both right handed and left handed folks — making us think that the feature must be almost ready for a final roll out.

Depending upon the side you tap on, the sidebar can pop up to either the left or the right. Theoretically, since Troughton-Smith was able to demo it on the iOS simulator, a jail-broken iPhone might also be able to deploy it in real life. We will have to wait for someone to try though.

Meanwhile, if you are wondering about when — and whether — Apple plans to officially integrate it within its devices — well, join the queue. The company may decide to offer it as an update, or make it part of its next operating system. Conversely, considering that it has been lying dormant for all this time despite being ready, Apple may have scrapped it altogether. For now though, be at peace knowing that your iOS code has something that could potentially let you chat or browse the web while lying down, even when using one hand as a pillow.

For now though, you can indulge yourself and dream of better days by watchi the keyboard in action on an iOS simulator, courtesy Troughton-Smith.

A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

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