Hub Keyboard, a mobile keyboard that was only available for Android users, now comes in an iOS version as well. Microsoft Garage, the company's "hack culture" project lab, announced the launch of the iOS app April 7, a little more than a month after releasing the Android version.
Like its Android predecessor, Hub Keyboard for iOS makes it easier for mobile users to stay on the task at hand rather than have to switch between apps to share copied content and document links with phone contacts or translate written information, according to Microsoft. The app integrates with Office 365 content saved in either OneDrive or SharePoint.
Senior Office designer Steve Won first came up with the idea for Hub Keyboard a little over a year ago and introduced it via a Microsoft Hackathon in 2015. That eventually led to the development of the app as a team effort through the Microsoft Garage.
Hub Keyboard for iOS is currently available only for English in the U.S. market; support for more languages and countries will be announced later, according to Microsoft. The app is free to download from both the Google Play Store and iTunes.
Goal: Stop Need To Switch Apps
"Personally I don't like switching between apps to do different things on my smartphone," Won said earlier this year in a post on The Fire Hose, Microsoft's blog about new developments. The solution was to integrate other Microsoft apps into a mobile keyboard app. "Rather than forcing users to switch between apps, we bring those apps to them," Won said.
Won was previously a user experience designer for Samsung, and began his career at NTT and Mozilla, which makes the Firefox browser. He joined Microsoft in 2014 to help with experience development for Windows 10, the latest version of the company's operating system, which was released last summer. He is also named as an inventor on 30 patents to date, including seven for Microsoft and 23 for Samsung.
No Signs Yet of SwiftKey Tech
Hub Keyboard is "a hub of different extensions, and is designed to help you save time and be present in the application you are using," according to the Microsoft Garage description.
The app is also far and away the most discussed project on the Microsoft Garage Uservoice forum. Recent conversations show that users testing Hub Keyboard for iOS have offered numerous suggestions for improving the app, ranging from adding a swipe function for faster typing to changing the "annoying" click sound on iPhones to the sound used on Windows phones.
Microsoft users can likely expect to see more keyboard developments from the company, especially in light of its $250 million acquisition -- finalized last month -- of SwiftKey, a London-based firm that developed a predictive typing app that is now found on more than 300 million devices.
While Hub Keyboard does not currently incorporate any of the neural network technologies used by SwiftKey, more news about how Microsoft will integrate the technology is expected to come out over the coming months.
Image Credit: Screenshot of Microsoft iOS Hub keyboard app via Apple iTunes.