But I will happily admit that Android does some things better than iOS, substantially so in some cases. Yet the one iPhone flaw that irks me on a daily basis — besides notifications, a topic all of its own — is the appallingly bad stock keyboard.
I type a lot throughout my day, whether it's messages to my friends, comments on Reddit, or terminal commands over SSH, so I get plenty of exposure to the stock keyboard. And I can safely say without any hesitation that I strongly dislike it.
Even with iOS 16 on an iPhone 14 Pro, i.e. the latest Apple hardware and software, the default keyboard is abysmally slow, often horribly inaccurate with the strangest and most random suggestions, and frustratingly unable to learn basic contractions.
Slower than I'd like
The sluggishness is one of the first things I notice when I start typing. I have a slight delay from when I touch the key to when it registers on the screen, something I noticed with my first iPhone, an iPhone 8. I chalked it up to the aging hardware, but it kept presenting itself on the iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max I later used.
I'll get to the auto-suggest problems in a moment, but my god, I despise how slow the suggestions appear. And yet, they simultaneously change at a rate I can't comprehend. I'll go to tap a suggestion without touching another key and it'll change, inputting the wrong word. Oftentimes, I don't notice; I see the word I want, tap it, and continue typing, only catching the error later.
When I pick up one of the best Android phones, like the Pixel 7 Pro, this is a non-issue. My typing is considerably more accurate, the suggestions appear as I would expect them to, and don't suddenly change with no input from me.
Typing on iOS is one of the things I most dislike about using my iPhone, whereas Android has a much smoother experience.
What is up with the auto-suggest engine?
In addition to the sluggishness, my distaste for the iOS keyboard continues with the auto-suggest engine. Hands down, it's the worst thing about this part of an iPhone. It throws out the most random suggestions sometimes, while also refusing to learn some common contractions (while acknowledging others in its dictionary). Things like "I'm," "I'll," "we're," and "you'll."
For example, I'll type "I-v-e" to get "I've" to appear without going into the symbols menu for the apostrophe. Instead of what I expect, iOS offers something random like "ivermectin," a word that I've never typed in my life until now. "I-l-l" will become "illegal" or "illegitimate," two words I use far, far less than "I'll."
And yet other things work just fine, like "w-h-a-t-s" translating perfectly fine to "what's." I just don't get it.
However, it's not just contractions. iOS throws out totally random words at times, too, like its prediction engine is working too hard to be smarter than me. Before you say it learns from what you've typed previously, it brings up suggestions in the primary box, the one in the middle, for words that I've never said to anyone.
Plurals are also sometimes a problem, too. I was typing the word "problems" (funnily enough) to a friend and the auto-suggest refused to suggest the proper plural, offering up "problem's" instead. I also had a time where it used every other word in the dictionary with the root word "problem" except for the actual word "problem" itself.
And its refusal to understand misspellings or typos is laughably bad, especially when Gboard (on both Android and iOS) does so much better, such as suggesting "before" for my misspelled "ebfore." The iOS keyboard will keep on suggesting other words that start with "e-b" instead.
I can't even imagine how much worse this would be auto-correct enabled, one of the first things I disable on any new phone, even Android ones.
About third-party keyboards
But, I hear you ask, can't you install third-party keyboards on iPhones? Yes, you can. There's a catch, though.
Apple does not like third-party apps replacing its stock system ones, so even though you can set alternate browsers, email clients and keyboards, it's an inferior — and sometimes extremely frustrating — experience. Every browser, for instance, must use Apple's web engine, effectively making them reskins of Safari with different sync options (like your Google or Firefox account).
With keyboards, I tried Gboard, Google's excellent keyboard that's the default on many Android phones. It's clean, effective, accurate and quick. Plus, it has a slew of features like built-in search and much more. All-in-all, it's a superior option to what Apple offers.
But third-party keyboards are second-class citizens on iOS. I have found that my iPhones will randomly switch back to the stock keyboard without me pressing the appropriate button. Entering passwords and PIN codes also forcibly brings up the iOS keyboard. (I can bet you Apple calls that a "safety" feature.)
With the word that Apple might have to open up iOS, such as allowing third-party payment providers, maybe alternative keyboards will get a better treatment. But as it stands right now, I find them more frustrating than helpful.
iOS 16 keyboard outlook
I'm not the only one who dislikes the iOS keyboard — though my passion on the topic might come from the fact that I was used to something better. Some of the Tom's Guide staff agree with me on some of my points here.
I've had these issues across four personal iPhone devices and several review units (where I don't sign into my Apple ID and restore backups). I know others who experience them on their own iPhones independent of me.
Apple has to address this, hopefully as soon as iOS 17. The default keyboard is in a sorry state, but if the phone maker refuses to address it, it can at least allow third-party keyboards to act as full replacements.
What we have now just isn't working. That needs to change.