The iOS system keyboard is really good. It became the guidestone for touchscreen keyboards since its launch in 2007, and has almost always been considered the industry leader. SwiftKey was the only serious challenger to its supremacy, but mostly because the iOS keyboard wasn’t available on Android. Even though iOS 8 launched with third-party keyboard support, and SwiftKey was finally available on iOS, lingering bugs and system-limitations have prevented any third-party keyboard from ever being able to fully replace the system keyboard. Issues ranged from the inability of other keyboards from even being invoked in password fields (a constant reminder of Apple’s obsession with security, which is, overall, a good thing), to jumping cursors while entering details in Contact fields and even the inability to use other keyboard while replying to messages from the lockscreen/notifications. All in all, the experience was always jarring, and no amount of features – and there are plenty – from keyboards like SwiftKey or Nintype would change that.
That’s why Crimson is so fantastic. It takes the flexibility of being a third party keyboard, and blends it with the looks of the system keyboard. When it opens on your phone (since it is iPhone only for now), you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve been charged for nothing. Cosmetically, the ‘enter’ key is the only difference from the standard keyboard. It even has a dark mode. Enter any letter, however, and the differences begin to appear. Crimson handles text entry like BlackBerry 10’s software keyboard does – by putting words over letters on the keyboard itself, requiring you to swipe up to enter the suggested word. It is absolutely magnificent, and I can’t imagine why others haven’t done it before. There is something cathartic about swiping words upwards, like you’re physically tossing blocks of text into your message. Crimson also features a really handy split spacebar, which manifests itself when you enter a single space. The spacebar is replaced with two large period (.) and comma (,) keys, which, when pressed, enter the comma or period immediately after the previous word and then leave a space. It’s very clever.
Needless to say, nothing is perfect, and Crimson isn’t without its flaws (not including those that plague third-party keyboards, in general). Crimson has “Passive Autocorrection”, which means that instead of “unsolicited” autocorrections, the keyboard merely shows the corrected spellings in red, which you can swipe upwards like regular words. This sounds amazing, but in my experience, Crimson’s autocorrect is abysmal. I can’t explain how frustrating it is to mistype a long word while entering characters quickly, expecting autocorrect to fix the spelling automatically, but having it either not do so entirely because you made more than one incorrect keystroke (for instance, the word “lemongrasa”, a misspelt rendition of “lemongrass” won’t be corrected. The system keyboard, however, will do so happily) or splitting the long word into two, or worse, THREE whole new words decided arbitrarily.
Fixing the autocorrection is another headache, because if the keyboard autocorrects to two or three words, pressing backspace won’t completely restore the uncorrected spelling entirely, it will do so for each corrected word. This is especially compounded if you are a purveyor of India’s greatest linguistic contribution to the world – Hinglish. If you’re confused, allow me to demonstrate what I mean – typing the word “zaroorat” (need) with Crimson causes the keyboard to autocorrect “zaroorat” into “zero or at”. Press backspace, and the text field looks like this – “zero or zaroorat”. You have to manually delete the “zero or” bit, and what’s worse, if you decide to move the cursor to just after the “or” and press backspace, you’ll see this – “zero zaroorat zaroorat”. You get what I mean. It’s an absolute nightmare.
The keyboard also allows you to add words to your personal dictionary by pressing the backspace key (which restores the uncorrected spelling), then pressing spacebar. You’re out of luck if you press anything except the spacebar (including punctuation), because it will recorrect the word. Repeatedly.
I realize I’m being unfair for judging the keyboard’s inability to correct Hinglish words correctly. I admit that’s a bit disingenuous, but I merely use this to highlight the really poor implementation of autocorrect. Even the system keyboard doesn’t speak Hinglish, but when it autocorrects to multiple words, pressing backspace reveals the popup of the original word, and tapping on that will replace all of the autocorrected words. In other words, were the system keyboard to split “zaroorat” into “zero or at”, pressing backspace would reveal “zaroorat”, and tapping on that would replace all of “zero or at” with “zaroorat”. That’s how this should ideally be handled.
Make no mistake, Crimson is a fantastic keyboard. It’s text entry mechanism is the most fun way to speed up typing that I’ve ever experienced. And when autocorrect works, it does a good job. I just wish they would have kept it simple when it came to this most basic function of any modern software keyboard. I absolutely adore Crimson, and I continue to use it despite everything I’ve highlighted above. The developer has promised to fix most of the autocorrect bugs, as well as make it iPad compatible, within the next couple of updates. With all my heart, I can’t express how much I hope that happens soon. Crimson is available for $1.99, but honestly, I’d recommend waiting for v2.0.