How Peach will save the iOS keyboard

Whether we realize it or not, we all have good and bad User Experiences everyday. Good user experience can can include that app that seamlessly helps you save money, the interface you use to catch up on your morning news, or the ride share service that gets you to work on time. They seamlessly integrate the user into their own goals and the user goals, causing the user to not have to think any harder than necessary. Good UX makes a seamless connection between the user and the experience, so much so, that we use it without hesitation. Most of the time we do not recognize how easy it actually is, and the experience in a way, just goes away. We forget how good the experience is, until there is something that counteracts it.

However with the good, comes the bad; the app that continues to crash when trying to pull up a bus ticket, the interface that makes programming a Point of Sale system haphazard, or that keyboard extension that drives you crazy because it actually makes using your phone’s keyboard more frustrating than convenient.

I find that I have a hard time remembering bad UX. For the most part, it is because I do NOT want to have a bad experience again, so, I avoid it at all cost. It is not until I am forced into an experience of using them, that I recognize why I have not been using them, and why I avoid them.

Let’s take a look at one user experience I use the most, the native iOS keyboard on my iPhone 6. Overall, the keyboard gets the job done and is seamlessly integrated into all apps. It is intuitive, has suggestions and predictions nested at the top, is there when I need it and gone when I don’t, and overall I don’t think much about it, because it just works.

But who wants a boring ol’ keyboard!? I want more! I want emojis, Gifs, Bitmojis, and more! I want to be able to integrate these fun emotion-expressing apps into my keyboard so that I can access them at the press of a button. At least, I thought I did…

The first time I added on the gif keyboard, I did so because I found myself in the middle of messages double-clicking the home button to change between the messaging app and the Giphy app. I thought “I want to access this all the time”, and the gif keyboard extensions makes this happen. So, I added the keyboard extension to my native iOS keyboard. “This is great”, I thought, “Now, I don’t have to switch between iMessage and the Giphy app. I have a keyboard that allows me quick access to all of my favorite gifs.” When typing, I can quickly click the button that changes from my native keyboard to my emoji keyboard, and click it again and it takes me to my gif keyboard.

Now I have access to my gifs at all times! I can deal with having to click through my emojis to get to my gifs. I accepted the small difficulty, because I was getting one thing I wanted in return. It really was only one step, one extra second for this “upgrade”. So, I decided to add another keyboard extension, Bitmojis.

When I press the button to change my keyboard it first takes me to emojis. The button to change keyboards changes and displays “ABC” which I would assume would take me back to my native keyboard, but instead it takes me to my gif keyboard and finally to my bitmoji keyboard. One extra step, one extra second, has become two extra steps or two more seconds. If I want to add just an emoji to my text, I press the button to change to my emoji keyboard, select my emoji, and then I’m done… NOT. I have to click two more times to get through the gif app and then the bitmoji app to then return to my keyboard.

ios Keyboard
Bitmoji and Gif Keyboard

With all the texting and messaging I do in a day, these two extra seconds have now become minutes. This is taking up minutes of my time, which adds up to hours and the resentment grows.

“This was supposed to be more convenient. This is becoming annoying now. I almost think it is easier to double click my home screen and go straight into the app where the gifs are loading faster, bitmojis are more clear, and overall I have a better experience.“

One day my frustrations built, and I couldn’t take it any more, not only did I turn off the keyboard extensions, I deleted the apps entirely. No more gifs, no more Bitmojis, only my basic native iOS keyboard and emojis. Besides, all of these extensions were luxuries in a way, I really only need my native keyboard and emojis to be a fully functioning social human.

And then the social anxiety set in. I was in texts, group texts, and slack messages, where my friends and cohorts were sending funny gifs and awesome Bitmoji responses, and I was’t.

“JOHN! Where is your bitmoji!!!”

“Why don’t you ever reply with gifs, John?”

“John, have you heard of bitmoji? Let’s make you an avatar!”

Yes, I have heard of a gif. No, I don’t want to add the app.

Yes, I have a Bitmoji avatar. No, I don’t want the App.

My resentment had grown and I didn’t want anything to do with these apps.

But I couldn’t hold out forever, the social pressure grew too strong, and I caved. I needed to be able to express myself with the perfect gif response of Ryan Gosling looking confused. I needed that Bitmoji that said “damn you auto-correct.” But most of all, I needed my friends to get off my back, and to appear like a fully informed, fully functioning adult with gifs and Bitmojis.

I re-download the apps. It had been at least six months since I had either of these apps on my phone. I re-activated the keyboard extensions. “Surely, they must have changed this function by now. I am sure these keyboard extensions are more seamless. Developers and UX Designers must have seen these bugs and fixed them.” I am clearly an optimist. But no, I was wrong. Still the same clumsy, time consuming interfaces.

This time, instead of letting resentment grow, I turned off the keyboard extensions. I accepted the fact that I was going to double click the home button to go between the Giphy and Bitmoji app and back to the messenger. Somehow it felt easier. Somehow it was less frustrating. I was able to type quickly, pick an emoji, and continue to type quickly again; and if I wanted to, I could throw in a funny gif. Still not ideal, but less frustrating than the original interactions with the keyboard extensions.

I have allowed myself to be okay with a bad User Experience. I have no other option unless I want to be “that guy who doesn’t use Bitmojis and gifs”. I have also created a new User Experience of clicking through different apps to give me the functionality that I desire. There is no hope. I just have to accept it and move on. Until I work for Apple, acknowledge this problem, and work with a team to fix it, it seems as though nothing is going to change.

However, one day, I stumbled across an app that gave me hope; it showed me that there might be light at the end of the tunnel.

PEACH.

Wait, what?

What is Peach?

A few people are trying to figure out what is the purpose of Peach. This is what we know: it’s kind of like Tumblr, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Slack. An app that provides a feed for me to rant and post, but with no real purpose. No direct messaging to friends. No public sharing outside of Peach. No community driven purpose. No one is quite sure what to do with Peach, but people are loving it and people are having fun.

Peach gives you a quick tutorial when you first onboard. It’s not about why to use the app, but mainly how to take advantage and activate the built in keyboard hacks to make your pointless feed even easier.

BUILT IN KEYBOARD HACKS? WHAT DO YOU MEAN?

Peach calls these hacks, “Magic Words”. Words, or letters, that can be typed to activate extensions within the keyboard itself. Instead of having to open the gif app or keyboard extension, the user can type “gif” and the option to “insert a gif” pops up above the keyboard, very similar to the predictive text function. After a “magic word” has been prompted the user is able to click on this option and access it quickly and seamlessly. Take fore example if you type a “g” or “gif”:

It is seamless. The user does not get interrupted while typing, they can continue their normal flow, and everything feels natural.

Here are a few other examples:

“H” can send your location:

“B” sends an image of your battery life:

And this list goes on and on.

Of course everything is not rainbows and kittens. It does auto-suggest gifs in a small box, and does not allow you to browse all gifs ever made like the keyboard extension, but, I am okay with this. There has to be give and take. I imagine that as the app will continue to grow these “magic words” and many will become more easily available, searchable, and obvious.

Some of these feature may seem unnecessary, but I think Peach is doing a great job of showing the capability of having these extensions built into the native keyboard with the simple solution of “magic words”.

I know this isn’t technically solving the issue at hand, however it is providing a solution to the frustrations I was encountering with the native iOS keyboard. Peach allowed me to not have to install keyboard extensions, but still have access to all of the features that I enjoy. It creates a seamless experience using the keyboard and expressing all of my emotions through text, gifs, images, videos, icons and more.

In conclusion, I thought, “Why is it that when writing about Peach, I have so little to say, compared to writing about my frustrations with the iOS keyboard?”. I think this is what makes the Peach keyboard and the app so great. It didn’t make me think, it didn’t make me think about why. It just worked, and it worked well, so I had very little to question.

This led me to a much bigger question. Why does Peach exist? After discussing it with some friends, I think I may have an answer, and it deals with the idea of breaking into the tech industry, getting peoples attention, and marketing a product and yourself to the big dogs. Does Peach exist as a social app, or does it exist to showcase an great piece of technology that will be able to be sold to a bigger company? Is it actually about the keyboard, and not about the app? I’m not sure, but I would not be surprised if in a few months we here about Peach being bought by Facebook or Apple, not for the functionality of the app but for the functionality of this great keyboard. Only time will tell, but for now, I will keep using Peach for its beautiful keyboard and seemingly pointless features, because it is easy and it doesn’t make me think.

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