Custom keyboards have been one of those highly lauded bullet points on Android users’ checklist vs. their iOS friends for years. But with iOS 8, Apple finally listened to customers and made available the ability to install and use custom, 3rd party keyboards. Thus far, though, while we’ve seen some big names from Android (like Flesky and Swiftkey) make the jump, it hasn’t been perfect. That’s more of an issue that Apple needs to address. How Apple has implemented keyboards is great from a security perspective. However, being new and all, bugs are still present. Present day and after a few updates, things are indeed better than they were on iOS 8 launch day.
All that said, we’re always looking for cool new keyboards. Apple’s is pretty good and all, but it’s certainly not the best anymore depending on how you type and your workflow. Today, we’re taking a look at a newcomer to the field, Crimson. Designed and developed by Doney den Ouden and Laurin Brandner respectively, Crimson is built to be a clean, fast and efficient keyboard that won’t weigh down the OS or most importantly, you.
Clean and slick. While some keyboards might try bring their own design language to iOS or other platforms’ design styles, Crimson is all iOS at heart. That said, eagle-eyed users will spot one of the best design choices that Crimson spots – a shift key that you can actually easily tell what state it’s in. At launch, Crimson is nearly identical to the stock iOS keyboard in color but with red accents throughout. If red isn’t your thing there’s an option in the settings to change the color to suit your needs. According to the designer, Doney, more themes will be made available in future updates.
The other subtle but nice touch are animations, particularly the animation when you are typing normally on letters. It’s not as exaggerated or elevated above the keyboard on Crimson. To us, it both looks nicer and makes Crimson feel faster in general usage.
Features & Functionality
Smart & Personal Predictions – Crimson’s main claim to fame is a re-worked word suggestion layout. With the stock iOS keyboard, suggested words are placed in a bar above the keyboard. Tapping on a word will then allow you to place it in-line without typing the rest of said word. In Crimson, word suggestions appear above the actual letter keys (powered by y Adaptxt) based off of the first letter. To select the suggested word, simply swipe up on the letter with the suggestion that you want. From a clutter perspective it’s plausible how some might not like the added text within the keyboard. For someone who favors absolute speed, though, we’re finding this layout a lot more convenient and faster. And truth be told, it’s making us actually use word suggestions. We rarely use the suggestions on the stock keyboard. By default, Crimson uses passive predictions that allow you to choose to accept corrections/suggestions but an option to enable auto corrections is available in the keyboard settings.
So far we’ve only found one bug (that the devs are already aware of and fixing in the next update). If you’re in an iMessage window and type “Details” and then “i” to edit a contacts info, it’s impossible to edit anything as the keyboard will jump lines before you can edit any line. According to the devs, Apple’s keyboard API is at best, buggy, and they’ve had to implement a lot of custom fixes to make Crimson work as smooth as it does. We’ve heard that Apple’s keyboard API is a mess from a bunch of people. It’s common knowledge, really.
System Suggestions – If enabled, Crimson will pull info from your contacts as well as iOS system shortcuts you’ve setup in the iOS settings app and include that in suggestions.
Smart Spacebar – When you type with Crimson, the spacebar will au automatically split into comma and period keys as needed, allowing for even faster typing.
Themes – As touched on above, the accent color of Crimson can be changed in the keyboard’s standalone app and more diverse themes are scheduled for release in future updates.
Crimson can be installed on iPhone and iPod touch devices running iOS 8.0 or higher. iPad support is listed as “coming soon”.
Language support for Crimson’s predictive typing includes Danish, Dutch, English (UK), English (US), Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.
Supported keyboard layouts – Danish, Dutch, English (Canada), English (UK), English (US), Finnish, French, French (Canada), French (Switzerland), German (Germany), German (Switzerland), Italian, Norwegian BokmÃ¥l, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish.
Dictionary support varies depending on device. The iPhone 4s can only handle a single dictionary at a time while the 5/5s/5c can handle 2. The latest iPhone 6 and 6+ can support 3 simultaneous keyboards.
Questions/concerns/compliments for Crimson can be directed to Doney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a quickly growing see of keyboards, Crimson brings a nice, clean and easy to use keyboard to market that takes Apple’s mostly well designed keyboard and adds a few useful enhancements. Feature wise we think the placement of suggestions enables a faster and more efficient typing experience though understand that aspect is more subjective.
Overall, Crimson is a very nice 1.0 product and well worth the $1.99. Hell, we’d pay $1.99 just for a shift key that didn’t suck. It just so happens Crimson has some other awesome treats as well. If you’re looking for a 3rd party keyboard that looks close to stock but functionally kicks things up a notch, Crimson is worth a solid look.
Designer: Doney den Ouden
Developer: Laurin Brandner
- Crimson keyboard for iOS 8 $1.99 (iTunes Link)