Are you happy with the keyboard solutions on iPhone?

App Developer

Hi everyone!
Curious, are low-vision and blind users happy with the current keyboard solutions on iPhone ? I have a friend who uses the apple's keyboard with voice over and it looked quite tough and error-prone. Are there any special keyboards or typing apps that you use ?

Forum: 

#1 A couple you can try

Club AppleVis Member

If your friend knows braille, they may enjoy using Apple's built-in braille keyboard. Another alternative would be @MBraille which is one of my favorites. A third alternative, and this would be using more of a regular style keyboard, is an app called @Fleksy. Just a couple of options, although by no means, all of them.

#2 are you comfortable using a smartphone keyboard?

App Developer

Thanks for the prompt response and suggestions.

Personally, do you find it hard to type on a smartphone / iPhone ? And how often do you type on a smartphone ?

#3 I type quite a bit

Club AppleVis Member

There are several different modes for typing even with the built-in iOS keyboard. Of course, there is what is called standard typing, where you flick to the letter you want and then double tap it ( a very slow method). There is touch typing where you slide your finger along the keyboard, find the letter you want and lift the finger. New is direct touch typing where you really need a very high level of accuracy to type quick on that, because you basically touch the screen and lift your finger quickly to insert the letter. For myself, I do almost everything through typing. I very seldom use Siri, yet I text, use Facebook, and many other writing apps very frequently through the day. Again, however, when it comes to typing, it is a matter of preference. As I stated, I prefer MBraille, but you will probably get many different answers from many different people.

#4 I am not happy with the

I am not happy with the standard keyboard and yep |I do write a lot.

Do you want me tto say what I need?

A T9 style keyboard, spread accross the entire screen with nine big keys.
Left and right flicr would navigate the word suggestions.
Give me that and the only irritating thing about a touch phone will drop.

#5 I liked the simpler version

I liked the simpler version of Fleksy (now no longer supported) which was designed specifically for VoiceOver users. I won't use the current version of Fleksy because it has too much stuff catering to the sighted (themes and such) that IMO just gets in the way and I also didn't want an integrated keyboard.

I type a fair amount and use the standard touch-typing where one slides to the letter and lets up to enter it. AS I say, I liked the Fleksy VO version but that's gone. I am not interested (unlike many others) in Braille-style keyboards as I am often typing one-handed and pretty-much one-fingered (my thumbs are too big to text like young people do).

#6 Bluetooth is another option

I'd say dictation, which can be dimmed for no reason I can see, is probably the worst option, siri being probably next. I use touch typing, typing pretty quick, I do like how it knows what I type. So if I write yoi it knows i want You. I guess the question we need to ask, is can you give us more information? Is this person well versed in technology? because all of the t9 whcih I think was the press the number twice for d three times for e if I ave that right, or a smart phone won't make much of a difference if they can't grasp it. Bluetooth keyboards small or a normal size as I have Apple's might be better suited, dependign on how they write. It's portable so in theory, can be slid inside a backpack, thin for the most part. If youcan give us soem more info we can help more.

#7 another keyboard app needed?

App Developer

Thanks all for your prompt responses.

My friend works at an accessibility center and told me that he doesn't like the current apple iphone keyboard. He did show me a tiny bluetooth keyboard - which he bought but rarely uses (btw, the keyboard is a T9 design).

I wanted to know if the problem that he described resonates with other low-vision and blind users too or was specific to him.

Also, I should mention that over the past couple months, I have worked on designing a new keyboard app and personally, I also want to understand as to if there is a need for another keyboard app.

#8 He's probably using RiVO

Club AppleVis Member

I have a feeling your friend is using the RiVO keyboard. There is a steep learning curve to using that keyboard. I bought it recently and am still learning it. There are a lot of commands to remember. I am interested in learning what others think of the RiVO.
Thanks,
mani

#9 Keyboards

I really liked the original Flecksy. I cannot seem to get the current version to work effectively. I touch type on the standard keyboard, but it's slow and cumbersome. I don't do Braille. I use dictation when i can, but I don't like using it in public. I have not tried an external keyboard. I would rather not have to carry another device.

So yes, I wish I had a better keyboard option.

#10 only problem with braille

only problem with braille screen input is that it always switches orientationon me, other than that it's fine. MBraille has some buggy issues, where it causes a lot of crashes

#11 yes, its RiVO

App Developer

I checked and it is RiVO, however, as I mentioned, he bought it but doesn't use it.

#12 Thanks - is it a real pain point ?

App Developer

Thanks for all your inputs!

@ DPinWI - I heard very similar things from my friend - except that he hasn't used Fleksy. He is quite comfortable with technology though.

@ mani, @ splyt @ Mike @ DPinWI - Is the keyboard a real pain point for you ? Or is it a "nice to have" ?

Also, if anyone is interested, here is a link to the article that I wrote on a different keyboard design:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/rethinking-keyboard-inclusive-design-low-...

#13 Extremely sad.

I really don't like the options that I have for the keyboard. In fact, I remember when I updated to IOS 8 the thing I wanted most was integrated 3rd party keyboard support so I could use flexy. Yes, touch typing works, but it's just not all that fast. You could get a Bluetooth keyboard, but then you're having to cary around 2 things which starts to get in the way.

#14 I Am Happy With the Standard Keyboard

Hi,
I am happy with the current Ios built in keyboard. Yes, it may be slower to type with VoiceOver and the keyboard but practice has made it easier for me to get used to and improve my speed. I am a Braille user so I type with Braille screen input a lot.
That's just my experience though.
Thanks and regards

#15 My opinion on keyboards

I unlike most blind people it seems am quite happy with the stock iOs keyboard. Furthermore i'm of the opinion that one should learn thoroughly to use the keyboard before for example going the Bluetooth route and the reason for this is that if your bluetooth keyboard for some reason decides to die on you and you don't know the internal keyboard you're basically up a well known creak without a paddle. I have tried many keyboards through the years, from the Boxwave Keyboard buddy to various big and small bluetooth keyboards to Fleksy, the apple braille keyboard and even mBraille and i keep going back to the good old iOs stock keyboard. It suits me fine and i don't need anything else, although the new fleksy keyboard is very good and gets better by the release. True you don't type long novels with the builtin iOs keyboard but it's good for what i use it for, facebook, twitter, the occasional email and so on. If there was a small no tiny BT keyboard that i could carry with me and that was comfortable to type on and not as big and clumsy as Apples keyboard is in this setting, i'd at least try it out but i have yet to find any that supports the scandinavian keyboard layouts so it's the stock iOs keyboard all the way for me.

#16 keyboard

I like the keyboard from my iPhone 6 iOS 8.4.1 I am able to type without any issues and I am fast. The only thing I hope apple fix is the next keyboard where the emoticons are. Is not organize unlike it use to be with iOS 7 from page to page.

#17 Braille Display?

I use Braille Screen input when i am not using my braille display. I sometimes use the built in iOS keyboard. I mostly like using my braille display at school because I can type faster on it than on the other keyboards.
But I think I could try other keyboard apps.
By the way, Malik, What is the keyboard app you're building called? Or you can also use the predictive text on iOS.

#18 I wish Spike made a version of their keyboard for the iPhone 6.

They've made a versioms for the iPhone 4, and 5S, I believe, but not for the 6. For those who don't know, the Spike keyboard is a case that goes over your iPhone and puts a keyboard directly over the keyboard on the screen of your iPhone. This keyboard isn't Bluetooth, however. When you press the keys on the keyboard, something on the back of each key makes contact with your iPhone's screen, and the key on the touchscreen keyboard is pressed. This is awesome, because everything is mechanical and there is no Bluetooth draining your battery.

Thanks,
Shersey

#19 Keyboard is the only really

Keyboard is the only really chalenge for blind folks trying an touch screen.
Some of us have more dexterity some of us have less. I am a kind of person who like to have a key under my finger.
The thing is: keys are not needed to navigate screens, sighted people indeed have been doing navigation with mouse and similar devices and now with their fingers for years.
But, for typing keys are needed.
As we might have no physical keys in an telephone the less virtual keys you have the better and this explains why braille input is so successfull: instead of having almost 30 possibilities to input something wrong you have only 10 or so.
The ideal for me would have a flexy style keyboard that supports braille input, where you can start typing and listen automatically for the first suggestion and, from there, navigate by suggestions. The input braille screen hjas some prediction but the quantity and quality of the options are very limited.
However, braille is for a small group of people and T9 is for everyone so I'd gladly use T9 (eight possibilities of entering something wrong) if it were available.

For long texts I use bluetooth. I also dictate a lot but the speech recognition has some fails and edit text in the iPhone is a pain so I use it for very short things.

#20 Chris said it best

Hi all. I as I said have the bluetooth keyboard, but I didn't buy it until two years after getting the phone, as i text late at night and lying in bed typing with one finger is a pain int e umm. Anyway I can't type iwth more then one finger, just not easy for me. I agree, usethe os keyboard, because usually when you unlock, you have the os keyboard first,r ather then the braille screen imput, though because i don't use it someone correct me. I knew flexy you have to open the app or something like that. :)

#21 great discussion

App Developer

This is definitely one of the most active forums that I have been a part of. Appreciate all the inputs - turning out to be a very good discussion with varied view points, which is somewhat surprising to me.

I am guessing that there are both low vision and blind users in this forum. Wondering if there is a division in opinion based on that ? If you are comfortable, could you please update your post with this information.

@ Maria Reyes: Thanks for the suggestion! I will look into using the predictive text. Also, the keyboard I am building is called Gestype. I'd be happy to invite you to test it although, should warn you that it is a non qwerty keyboard and has a learning curve. That being said, I can type quite fast on it, with my eyes closed. I have also had mixed reviews on it with some people really liking it and others finding it somewhat hard to learn (and since then I have updated the app to include a training game)

#22 I'd love to try out your app.

I'd love to try out your app. After Fleksy went downhill, I've been looking for a new keyboard app for a long time.

#23 Gestype vs RiVO

Club AppleVis Member

Hello TMalik:
How different is Gestype going to be from RiVO? RiVO too is a non-Qwerty keyboard.
I suggest you look into making the size bigger than the RiVO. I don't have a problem carrying a bigger device . I need to be able to type fast like I would type on my Mac and also access the other features of the iPhone/iPad if need be.
I would be happy to help you withe usability testing of Gesteye.
Thanks an good luck on your endeavor,
mani

PS: I am blind and use VoiceOver.

#24 RE: Are you happy with the keyboard solutions on iPhone?

If it is of any assistance to you here is my perspective pertinent to my situation. I began to use an iOS device in February 2013. To this day I type very slowly when using the stock iOS keyboard. Since I have been using the public iOS 9 betas, Braille Screen Input seems to have improved for me though it could have in later versions of iOS 8. Before that was implemented, I used Braille and before that I used Braille Touch. When using Braille or Braille Screen Input in away mode, I can type quite fast on my 6 Plus.

Pertinent to the stock keyboard, I use touch typing with one finger. Accuracy has improved drastically in passing though speed has not. These young cats somehow some way type using their thumbs which baffles me… something I would never try to do because the concept to me is illogical.

To answer your question, I am not satisfied with the stock keyboard but Braille Screen Input makes it tolerable. What I truly need is a Matias Tactile 1. My sole keyboard for my Macintosh is a Matias TactilePro and I will NEVER use another keyboard by any other company not to mention purchase one. When I have a Matias Tactile 1 my frustrations with regards to the iOS 8 stock keyboard will be resolved.

#25 Excellent

I agree with @tmalik this is the most active forum topic I've ever been on. And @Siobhan you can use the fleksy keyboard as an iOS keyboard. go to settings general then keyboards and Fleksy should be there. @tmalik Is your keyboard that you are working on a whole different device? P.S. I am blind and I use VoiceOver.

#26 Gestype is..

App Developer

@ mani , @ alexl1 : I'd be glad to invite you! Please send me an email at: gestype@gmail.com with the email address that you need me to send the invite to. Appreciate your help!

Also, Here is an explanation of Gestype:

Gestype is an iOS app. You don't need any extra hardware and it is not based on Braille.
When you open the app, the keyboard is in the bottom half (like other keyboards). However, the keyboard only has 2 keys - one in the right half and one in the left half. So if you hold the keyboard in both hands with your thumbs facing towards the touchscreen, your thumbs will always be above the keys.

Each key can type 6 characters using 6 gestures which are: left, down, right and up swipes and tap and double-tap. The mapping is alphabetical, in a clockwise arrangement and consistent across all keys. So, 2 keys will give you 12 alphabets. You can obtain other 12 by a couple of methods, one is to slightly tilt the phone, which switches the key mapping on the existing keys to next 12 alphabets and alerts you via vibration.Y, Z, spacebar and delete are obtained by simple two finger swipes. You can also switch to numbers or symbol keys via a simple gestures.

For low-vision users there are 4 keys , two on the right side and two on the left side.

The app also has a basic word suggestion built in so if you type b a you can scroll through all the words starting with b a. I also have a built in training which has you type alphabets and checks what you have typed.

Fun begins once you start getting using to the key mapping. I have some algorithms build in which makes the app fault tolerant and will allow you to type using only 2 keys - at least all the common words and sentences. And this allows for very fast typing. I am still working on improving these algorithms and and improving the text prediction.

Also, for now, the app does not work with voice over and has built in voice, which speaks everything.
The app also has a built in qwerty keyboard with touch typing, which you can switch to, while learning the app.

-Tarun

#27 Hey!

Hey!

When you say 12 alphabets we have 12 possible caracters or 12 possible al´pphabets?

Simulating here:
up = a
right = b
down = c
left = d
tap = e
Now give me four of these keys not two
we would have twenty of the twenty six needed letters and it would be very fast.
Now do it with some more options
up up-right right right-down down down-left left left-up
and with four keys you have the world.
Further more, keys do not have a size but they're drown from the point where you first touch one screen, so if you use the top left part of the keyboard on screen your lines could very well go farer than the limits of the key itself.
One touch would speak the possible combinations so you know you touched the right part of one's screen to start drawing.
That's it.

#28 Is your app

Is your app free and can it be used on an iPad mini? It sounds interesting. Since we are talking about keyboards I have a question about braille screen input with typing passwords. When you are typing a password with braille screen input. Does the braille count the capital as part of the password? for example: If you want a capital M do you do a dot 6 and then the letter M? I hope this makes sense because this is my ffirst time typing with braille screen input. Thanks.

#29 clarifications..

App Developer

@ splyt : So, here is a mapping:
right swipe = a , down = b, left = c , up = d , single-tap = e , double-tap = f
So, we have 4 keys = 24 alphabets. Two alphabets y and z are two finger left and right swipes.
These 6 gestures, can be triggered with one thumb/finger or two thumbs/fingers resulting in different actions.

And your proposal regarding - drawing the keys dynamically is great. I will keep that in mind for a future version

@ Maria : The app is not available in stores yet. I am sending out limited invites though.
Also, I have a small request. Please add discussions related to specific bugs or issues in a different post.

Thanks
Tarun

#30 RE: Is your app

Once I attempted to use the built-in contracted braille keyboard to enter my master password in 1Password. It did not work for some reason but I may try again in the near future. I will enquire to AgileBits with regards to this and if not already implemented will suggest they incorporate it in the forthcoming beta builds. I use them and that would be a welcome addition. Aside from that, I never enter passwords with the exception of my pass code to unlock my device after it reboots.

#31 RE: is your app

Hello, Brotha, So is it possible to enter passwords with the built in braille keyboard?

#32 Passwords with Braille keyboard

Be careful with that. If your password's got special symbols and capital letters in it, it's very tricky. Last few times I tried entering a password with more than one capital letter, it failed. There's no way for you to know what you're typing when entering a password with that keyboard, so special symbols can get messed up too.
I just use the regular keyboard for passwords, it's slower but more accurate with that sort of thing.

#33 Let's Please Get Back On Topic

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

All,

It looks like we have two discussions going here. If you have a comment/question not relating specifically to the original poster's question as to whether you are or aren't happy with the current iOS keyboard offerings, please create a new topic rather than posting them here. Doing so will both help you to get your question seen (and possibly answered) by people who can help, and it will also help to keep things organized for those trying to follow the existing discussion. Thank you.

#34 I am willing to help you test also.

I tried posting a comment before but it didn't go through for some reason. If there are duplicates I apologize. I am willing to help you test this keyboard I have test flight just email me so I can give you my credentials.

#35 Invites..

App Developer

Hi all, I have sent out invites to everyone who requested it. If you don't have an invite, this means that I don't have your email address. Please email me at: gestype@gmail.com

As again, the app is non-qwerty and not completely polished yet which means that if you just want to play with the app, this is not the right time. Also, if you are happy with the current keyboard solutions, then please wait until the app is in the app store.

However, if you think that you could use a new keyboard design and that you might be interested in suggesting improvements, then please email. Your input/s would be very valuable and you'd be able to define the features that you might want in the app (although, I can't promise that I'd be able to include all your suggestions :)

Thanks!
Tarun

#36 Fleksy VO

I am using VoiceOver and I am still using Fleksy Vo on iPhone 4S and IOS 8.1. Just that very occasionally I can't manage to carry out the 2 finger slide up to get to the menu. If this does happen, I power down the phone and start again and then it's great. Little bit of a pain at times but I love the app. Also I type quite fast on short messages just using touch typing on the normal phone keypad.

#37 typing specific alphabets and language specific words..

App Developer

Thanks for sharing Babs.
My understanding regarding Fleksy is that it uses a very good word prediction system.. wondering how easy is it to type a given alphabet and also language specific words.

For example, I also speak an Indian language and need to type certain words in that language (using english alphabets). Autocorrection can almost never get those words right.. Whats your experience ?

-Tarun

#38 Fleksy VO

Hi Tarun
I use predictive typeing on Fleksy VO quite a lot for long messages but on the very rare occasions it inserts the wrong word, I have to do the following.
I drag my finger to the area on the screen where I think the letters are that I want, and when I hear them spoken, I just lift my finger to insert each one. Once the full word is typed, just flick one finger right to insert it.
If you accidentally lift your finger on a wrong letter, just flick one finger left to remove that letter.
I hope this has helped you.

#39 I don't know about your language but...

Hi, nice to hear from someone who don't bash the new fleksy. I don't know about your specific language but i speak Swedish and Fleksy works very well with Swedish words.
Oh by the way i'm totally blind.

#40 Update regarding Gestype

App Developer

Hello friends, Thanks for all your inputs. I have an update regarding Gestype.
Over the past several months, we have tested the keyboard app with several users, including applevis members, and made several refinements. Wanted to share a review from one of our early testers, below is the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xe4UIxjTzc

We are planning on doing a small kickstarter for the keyboard. Would you support it ? :)

cheers
Tarun

#41 To resolve this problem

Hi, to resolve this problem you can doB hi, to resolve this problem you can do three fingers swipe up to lock or unlock this rotated screen. Although your screen orientation is not lock, The braille screen input will be lock . I hope this answer will resolve your problem. have a nice day.

#42 Yes, I will contribute.

Club AppleVis Member

Hello Tarun,
Yes, I would be happy to pledge $20 toward a kickstarter campaign for Gestype.

#43 Clarifications

App Developer

Thanks! Appreciate it. A few clarifications:

1. App is 90% done. It needs to be polished for performance and word prediction. So looking to raise around 3000 $
2. All the funds from the kickstarter would go towards app development and none towards paying me.
3. I learnt iOS app development to make this app. so this is my first app. And I have spent over 4 - 5 months working on it full time

Thanks,
Tarun

#44 Keyboard campaign is live

App Developer

Friends, Thanks for all the inputs and help. I have finished prototyping the keyboard app and have created a mini-fundraising campaign.

Please visit this link: https://www.generosity.com/community-fundraising/gestype-keyboard-app-fo...

I'd love your support and shares. No amount is small - many little drops fill the mighty ocean.

Best,
Tarun