Apple’s new mobile operating system, iOS 8, is available for download today. One of the best features is the inclusion of third-party keyboards to replace Apple’s default.
David McKinney, the developer of the Product Hunt iOS app, is one of the many offering up alternatives. What makes his special? It’s a keyboard that auto-suggests emoji as you type.
Instead of hunting through the vast library of available images to put in your text, Emoji Type pulls in a list of suggestions for different words. If you write “dog,” for example, the top row above the keyboard will show you all the different emoji pertaining to dogs.
“I had to create a custom dictionary of several thousand words that I then mapped to all the different emojis,” says McKinney. “At the moment it uses single words, but I have full phrase detection and emoji combos coming soon.”
The predictive emoji keyboard was written completely in Swift, Apple’s new programming language, which presented a few additional development challenges. But the biggest hump to overcome was using the updated keyboards API.
“Most of the hardest stuff was working around the keyboard extensions API, which is still brand new,” McKinney says. “Apple has done a great job with this, but as it is new everything has been a matter or trial and error to figure out what’s possible.”
Emoji Type is in the review process and will be released within the next few days as Apple clears iOS 8 apps for release. Even though Android users have had this functionality through keyboards like SwiftKey for a while, this will be the first time it’s available on iOS.
In addition to third-party keyboards, iOS 8’s default keyboard has also been given a functionality update with QuickType word suggestions. Regardless of whether or not you’ll be heavily integrating emojis into your texting flow, new updates around Apple’s typing experience are going to get a whole lot better.