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Fleksy offers sneak peek of its third-party keyboard running on Apple's iOS 8

post #1 of 55
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Popular alternative keyboard Fleksy is already running on the first beta of Apple's forthcoming iOS 8, and developers can sign up now to be among the first to test it out.




The company posted a picture to Twitter on Wednesday revealing that it already has Fleksy running on an iPhone with iOS 8. The image shows the third-party keyboard being used with Apple's native Messages application.

Developers who want to test out Fleksy can sign up at the company's website. No release date has been given, though Fleksy said it plans to be "one of the first third-party keyboards to be available" on Apple's forthcoming software update.

Fleksy will join SwiftKey and Swype, both of which have also confirmed that they plan to support the new alternative keyboard support in iOS 8.

Prior to Apple's announcement of official third-party keyboard support system-wide in iOS 8, Fleksy was already aggressively promoting its keyboard as a potential alternative for iOS developers earlier this year. Without sanctioned support for non-Apple keyboards in iOS 7, Fleksy was forced to offer a keyboard SDK to all iOS developers, giving them the option to include their keyboard on an app-by-app basis.



But starting with iOS 8, users will be able to install their own keyboards if they are not satisfied with Apple's solution. Apple has also improved its own keyboard in iOS 8 with a new feature called QuickType, which suggests words to users and adapts to their language over time.

Apple has said that security is a top priority for the company in finally allowing third-party keyboards on iOS. Before installing a keyboard in iOS 8, users are warned with the following:

"Full access allows the developer to transmit anything you type, including things you have previously typed with this keyboard. This could include sensitive information such as your credit card number or street address."
post #2 of 55
I just want to use a Swype keyboard. Thats the one thing I really liked when I had my Android phones.

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post #3 of 55
I stil have concerns about security with a systemwide 3rd-party keyboard. Has Apple detailed how they plan to prevent key logging?

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post #4 of 55
What the hell, they can watch everything we type? Is that the same with third party keyboards on all platforms or an iOS-only thing?
post #5 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

"Full access allows the developer to transmit anything you type, including things you have previously typed with this keyboard. This could include sensitive information such as your credit card number or street address."

WOW. Who on earth would install a 3rd party keyboard after seeing this warning?

Apple should have designed a much better way of making sure that anything typed stays in the phone - for example by preventing network access for custom keyboard apps.
post #6 of 55
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Originally Posted by jason98 View Post

WOW. Who on earth would install a 3rd party keyboard after seeing this warning?

Apple should have designed a much better way of making sure that anything typed stays in the phone - for example by preventing network access for custom keyboard apps.

I thought that's what they said in the keynote?
post #7 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacVicta View Post

What the hell, they can watch everything we type?

Huh? Are you talking about the suggesting being displayed at the top of the keyboard? If so, that is all done on locally on the device, just like the previous suggestion options that were done in the text field. This is not being sent to Apple's servers like with the Siri-based dictation feature.

Or are you talking about the boilerplate warning from Apple? That's not saying the developer will record and transmit anything you type to their servers but it's certainly possible unless Apple builds in protections, which it doesn't look like they do. I'd have thought Apple would have created a special system for keyboards that would not allow such things but that warnings makes it clear that they haven't.

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post #8 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason98 View Post


WOW. Who on earth would install a 3rd party keyboard after seeing this warning?

Apple should have designed a much better way of making sure that anything typed stays in the phone - for example by preventing network access for custom keyboard apps.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post


I thought that's what they said in the keynote?

 

Yes, that's exactly what he said in the keynote, except you can opt to allow network access after receiving the scary warning.

post #9 of 55
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Originally Posted by MacVicta View Post

What the hell, they can watch everything we type?

 

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post #10 of 55
I don't believe you get that scary warning right away. By default keyboards have no access to resources including network. On the screen where you allow network access is where the big scary warning is. So default settings are secure, but if you want to turn the safeguards off, Apple gives you a scary warning. In my opinion the best of both worlds.
post #11 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


Or are you talking about the boilerplate warning from Apple? That's not saying the developer will record and transmit anything you type to their servers but it's certainly possible unless Apple builds in protections, which it doesn't look like they do. I'd have thought Apple would have created a special system for keyboards that would not allow such things but that warnings makes it clear that they haven't.

Bingo.
post #12 of 55
a third party keyboard (as on android or anything else) is a software.

That software could do ANYTHING with what your type and try to manipulate bugs of the operating system or whatever reviews.

for iOS 8, the system will warm if a keyboard want to use internet (for remote treatment for example, to load new kind of dictionaries, or whatever) and ask if you authorize or not.

But yes, you should be careful like with ANY software and be sure it's from a well known developer with no weird history.
post #13 of 55
Craig Federighi said everything is local to the device unless you chose otherwise.
post #14 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morky View Post

Yes, that's exactly what he said in the keynote, except you can opt to allow network access after receiving the scary warning.

Gotcha.

Yeah I just watched the keynote again. I like how he said "by default, it runs in the most restricted sandbox"

At least Apple is thinking about it! Plus... any 3rd-party keyboard would have to pass Apple's app approval process. That's good.

Just curious though... what sort of stuff would you gain by letting a keyboard have network access?
post #15 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


Or are you talking about the boilerplate warning from Apple? That's not saying the developer will record and transmit anything you type to their servers but it's certainly possible unless Apple builds in protections, which it doesn't look like they do. I'd have thought Apple would have created a special system for keyboards that would not allow such things but that warnings makes it clear that they haven't.

 

What are you talking about? That's EXACTLY what Apple did here. It's not a "boilerplate" warning it's an access dialog - the user has to give explicit permission to grant the keyboard access to the network.

Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #16 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Huh? Are you talking about the suggesting being displayed at the top of the keyboard? If so, that is all done on locally on the device, just like the previous suggestion options that were done in the text field. This is not being sent to Apple's servers like with the Siri-based dictation feature.

Or are you talking about the boilerplate warning from Apple? That's not saying the developer will record and transmit anything you type to their servers but it's certainly possible unless Apple builds in protections, which it doesn't look like they do. I'd have thought Apple would have created a special system for keyboards that would not allow such things but that warnings makes it clear that they haven't.
People don't pay attention to warnings. After market keyboard like these process on their own servers that has always been the case. That's how keep their code out of the eyes of their competitors. So everything you type goes across the internet and may be sitting on someone's poorly secured server somewhere or the in the case of android the server of the hacker that pirated the game and put it on the Play store until someone figures it out and notifies Google.
post #17 of 55

Don't see why the hell a KB needs network access in the 1st place?

post #18 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

What are you talking about? That's EXACTLY what Apple did here. It's not a "boilerplate" warning it's an access dialog - the user has to give explicit permission to grant the keyboard access to the network.

That really isn't a lot of information. What if I install a 3rd-party keyboard and give it access to grab a special dictionary. Will it always then have internet access all the time or will that network access be immediately revoked after that task is complete, without me having to go into Settings and manually disable network access?

How has Apple sandboxed this keyboard from other apps. For instance, does allowing it to be used for Contacts also give it access to its contacts? I assume not, but again I haven't seen anything detailing how it's compartmentalizing it's functionality.

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post #19 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I stil have concerns about security with a systemwide 3rd-party keyboard. Has Apple detailed how they plan to prevent key logging?

 

Yes, they have. The keyboard is strictly sandboxed, can only access keystrokes, is not aware of what's going on in the app beyond those characters, and has no network connection to send data anywhere. If certain keyboards use a "cloud brain" for somethign valid, they can request network access via a one-time popup--and then it's in your control whether to allow it or not. I'd pass on a keyboard like that, personally.

 

While Android pushes half-baked "First!" features out the door into the wild west and lets users suffer the mess, Apple quietly builds the security infrastructure to do them right and safely. Android is about the sizzle... Apple is about the steak. And this week, with relatively little sizzle, a lot of steak was served!

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


That really isn't a lot of information. What if I install a 3rd-party keyboard and give it access to grab a special dictionary. Will it always then have internet access all the time or will that network access be immediately revoked after that task is complete, without me having to go into Settings and manually disable network access?
 

Some good ideas--but I think you've invented kind of a complex system there, and complexity, in practice, is the enemy of security. We don't know all the details yet of course, but you can expect that if you want a "middle ground" where network access is only temporary, you will have to choose to turn it back off in Settings. That's a real edge case though, and one more simply solved by the developer including the needed dictionaries right in the original store download.

 

Remember that iOS 8 details (still in flux) are under NDA until fall. We'll have to await later reviews.


Edited by nagromme - 6/4/14 at 9:43am
post #20 of 55
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Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post
 

Don't see why the hell a KB needs network access in the 1st place?

 

Exactly, network should be disabled all time. All extra dictionary and bundles could be just installed along with an app - not after.

post #21 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morky View Post

Yes, that's exactly what he said in the keynote, except you can opt to allow network access after receiving the scary warning.

Gotcha.

Yeah I just watched the keynote again. I like how he said "by default, it runs in the most restricted sandbox"

At least Apple is thinking about it! Plus... any 3rd-party keyboard would have to pass Apple's app approval process. That's good.

Just curious though... what sort of stuff would you gain by letting a keyboard have network access?

well it COULD be good if we really knew what Apple checks, but we don't. I don't think it's wise to assume that Apple does any in-depth testing of third-party apps. In fact the go-to Fail issue rather suggests that the testing that ist done is not done well at all. Caution is probably necessary. But frankly I think its dumb to trust ANY company that is not open and fully transparent in software and security.

post #22 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

...they can request network access via a one-time popup--and then it's in your control whether to allow it or not.

To be clear, that's one-time for the app requesting access (unless you then disable that feature in Settings, presumably) and not a one-time network access session that closes after the download is complete or after a predetermined time? If the latter is an option, that would quash all my concerns, and it's not really any more complex than what they've done for years to preserve battery life with Backgrounding APIs so an app can complete a specific task before going idle.

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post #23 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post


That really isn't a lot of information. What if I install a 3rd-party keyboard and give it access to grab a special dictionary. Will it always then have internet access all the time or will that network access be immediately revoked after that task is complete, without me having to go into Settings and manually disable network access?

How has Apple sandboxed this keyboard from other apps. For instance, does allowing it to be used for Contacts also give it access to its contacts? I assume not, but again I haven't seen anything detailing how it's compartmentalizing it's functionality.

 

First of all, why not give Apple the benefit of the doubt here? Do you really think with all the talk of security throughout the Keynote, they would let a third party keyboard run freely throughout the OS? Honestly... If we assume anything, how about the fact that since it took so long to allow this type of feature, maybe they thought it completely through? And if they didn't... don't install 3rd party keyboards if you're that concerned.

 

Most modern operating systems have the ability to run code in a completely isolated fashion. The OS grabs the necessary code and resources and when a keyboard is requested by an app, the keyboard is presented. Any data entered into the keyboard can in fact be kept out of the hands of the original developer by not allowing that data to leave the device.

 

Using a 3rd party keyboard in Contacts is NOT going to give that keyboard access to Contacts. The keyboard doesn't know what apps are using it. All the keyboard process knows is how to display its interface and what key is pushed and then tells the OS, so the OS can send a "keydown" event to the active text field.

 

 

Another thing to consider... key logging and dictionaries could in fact be an API that's completely removed from the keyboard code itself and handled at OS level. Setting a simple property to "true" could tell the system to begin logging keystrokes and building dictionaries. Then if the keyboard wants to present the user with suggestions, it passes a block of code to the API which is used to traverse through dictionaries to determine possible matches - a list of those matches would then be returned to the keyboard on the fly, that the keyboard would display.


Edited by mjtomlin - 6/4/14 at 9:57am
Disclaimer: The things I say are merely my own personal opinion and may or may not be based on facts. At certain points in any discussion, sarcasm may ensue.
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post #24 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason98 View Post

Exactly, network should be disabled all time. All extra dictionary and bundles could be just installed along with an app - not after.

I can't think of any specifics but I also can't shake this feeling there are some legitimate and clever reasons for a networked keyboard.

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post #25 of 55

"Full access allows the developer to transmit anything you type, including things you have previously typed with this keyboard. This could include sensitive information such as your credit card number or street address."

 

I'll stick with the Apple keyboard, methinks.

post #26 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by mjtomlin View Post

First of all, why not give Apple the benefit of the doubt here?

Giving Apple the benefit of the doubt does not mean I can't inquire as to how something works. I do not see Apple as altruistic, infallible or in any way a deity that needs to be worshipped so when there is information I don't have I will inquire about it. Blind acceptance is not something I possess and it's the indolent that have no desire to understand the mechanics of a system. Did we not give Apple the benefit of the doubt that they had no SSL bug?
Quote:
Do you really think with all the talk of security throughout the Keynote, they would let a third party keyboard run freely throughout the OS?

Based on the comments here the keyboard could very well log and transmit your keystrokes if you give it network access.
Quote:
Honestly... If we assume anything, how about the fact that since it took so long to allow this type of feature, maybe they thought it completely through?

The problem is that an assumption is neither proof nor knowledge. Frankly I find is absurd that you're getting defensive because I wanting to know about its intelligent design. Burn the heretic¡
Edited by SolipsismX - 6/4/14 at 10:04am

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post #27 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Morky View Post


Yes, that's exactly what he said in the keynote, except you can opt to allow network access after receiving the scary warning.
if you would've listened during the keynote, keyboards are sandboxxed. They can be given limited or full access depending on what you want. Developers can keylog, but that doesn't mean they will
post #28 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

I stil have concerns about security with a systemwide 3rd-party keyboard. Has Apple detailed how they plan to prevent key logging?

They explained that during the keynote.  Third party keyboards have the highest level of sandboxing, so they can't send any info anywhere but to the app using it.  The keyboard software can request access to the internet, but then you get the big scary warning.

post #29 of 55
Yeah, but no, at least to allowing network access to a third party keyboard. Only thing I can think of are for updates which should be handled just like app updates. The keyboard itself should never have to go to another server. I'd rather have that functionality local to the device and the device only.
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post #30 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Taniwha View Post

well it COULD be good if we really knew what Apple checks, but we don't. I don't think it's wise to assume that Apple does any in-depth testing of third-party apps. In fact the go-to Fail issue rather suggests that the testing that ist done is not done well at all. Caution is probably necessary. But frankly I think its dumb to trust ANY company that is not open and fully transparent in software and security.

True.

Apple has caught apps that do nefarious things and booted them from the App Store.

I would hope they are extra careful when vetting these keyboards.

But I probably won't grant network access if I decide to use a 3rd-party keyboard... I don't really understand the need.
post #31 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post

But I probably won't grant network access if I decide to use a 3rd-party keyboard... I don't really understand the need.

 

Building crowd-sourced databases.. it's the quickest method of building highly accurate keyboards (anything really). Something like Swipe probably has a gesture database that it can use to more accurately determine what the user "meant" to type. Also offer up the most highly used "next" word that follows what you just entered. Something like QuickType uses Apple's Siri engine to determine context and offer up words and terms that might be more applicable. Anything that complicated probably won't work locally on a device and would have to be sent and processed on a more powerful system.

 

Older auto-correct systems are just glorified spelling checkers and that can be done using a locally kept dictionary.

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post #32 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post

I would hope they are extra careful when vetting these keyboards.

Speaking of vetting, how the hell did this get past anyone?

It's hard to see how anyone can have blind faith in a company's ability to protect you when this sort of blatant skullduggery occurs.


edit: It appears to have finally ben removed after attention was brought to it by bloggers.
Edited by SolipsismX - 6/4/14 at 10:48am

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post #33 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

It's hard to see how anyone can have blind faith in a company's ability to protect you when this sort of blatant skullduggery occurs.

 

I'm surprised that whoever is working at Apple's appstore had never heard of 1Password and didn't notice that the fraudulent app was a blatant copy, just look at the icon! Even the name is the same!

 

As for me, I still store passwords in my head and on secure stickies, for now at least.:) 

 

And the criminals behind the ripoff app should be banned for life from the Apple App store, and they should also be prosecuted and thrown into jail.

post #34 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Apple ][ View Post
 

"Full access allows the developer to transmit anything you type, including things you have previously typed with this keyboard. This could include sensitive information such as your credit card number or street address."

 

I'll stick with the Apple keyboard, methinks.

 

Ditto. Even if you can somehow convince yourself that it's ok to trust the developer with *everything* you type on your phone, are you sure you trust the company that comes along and buys that developer out? One great feature of Apple products is Apple's market cap --- it's too big for Google to buy. 

post #35 of 55

If you've ever installed an app on Android or Windows Phone you'll have seen the long list of permissions requested, many of them completely unrelated to the purpose of the app. That's just how it goes. They ask for the moon and hope you'll give it to them.

I don't know what sort of hidden permissions apps get on WP, but on Android there are some things all apps have access to by default. You're not informed about them and there's no way to deny permission. Access to the phone is one example. Every Android app can watch who you call and who calls you. There is absolutely no way to prevent it other than never using your phone as a phone (or switching to iPhone).

Third party keyboards that provide intelligent suggestions obviously log everything you type. If they didn't they'd have a really tough time coming up with good suggestions. People love the convenience and never really think about what key logging really means and what things, other than suggesting words for you, the developer could be using those logs for. It's likely that every 3rd party Android keyboard transmits logs to the developer to improve their word suggestion lists. And yes those logs will include your user IDs and passwords, most likely in plain text.

A fully sandboxed keyboard is never going to be able to update its word lists based on anything but your own typing, but that's the whole point. The words I want to see suggested are the ones I'm most likely to type, not those most likely to appear in texts between 16 year old girls.

post #36 of 55
I'm sure this will get its own article but I'm posting it hear because it speaks to Apple occasionally overlooking something that could lead to a dangerous result, especially since it deals with a lack of sandboxing.

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post #37 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slurpy View Post

Don't see why the hell a KB needs network access in the 1st place?

Language, emoji, and skin packs. Some save your user dictionary/style to the cloud so it doesn't need to relearn them when you get a new device.
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post #38 of 55
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post
Language, emoji, and skin packs.

 

Uh… download those.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

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Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

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post #39 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

Language, emoji, and skin packs. Some save your user dictionary/style to the cloud so it doesn't need to relearn them when you get a new device.

If those are the only uses I'd think a better solution is to us in-app purchases thereby making them pushable from the App Store to the keyboard app.

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post #40 of 55
Quote:
Originally Posted by jason98 View Post


WOW. Who on earth would install a 3rd party keyboard after seeing this warning?

Apple should have designed a much better way of making sure that anything typed stays in the phone - for example by preventing network access for custom keyboard apps.

 

Sorry, that's not how it works. By installing a custom keyboard you are performing an invasive change to your device.

 

For my money, I'd just like to see Apple improve the Shift function so it is more obvious upper or lowercase is selected.

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GOA

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Proud AAPL stock owner.

 

GOA

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