Six short months ago, it seemed like Microsoft’s SwiftKey keyboard for iPhones and iPads was dead. It seemed that way because Microsoft had said it was dead and went so far as to delist it from the App Store.
The next month, with little explanation, the keyboard was re-listed on the App Store, and Microsoft execs hinted (without getting specific) that there were plans for developing it further. The month after that, SwiftKey got its first boilerplate “bug fixes and performance improvements” update since August 2022.
Yesterday, SwiftKey for iOS got a major feature update—and because we’re talking about a Microsoft product in 2023, the update involves Bing’s AI-powered chatbot, which (along with other AI features) has quickly made its way into Windows, Edge, Skype, and other apps in the last few months.
Tap the increasingly familiar blue lowercase “b” icon on the keyboard, and you’ll be able to interact with the Bing chatbot in three different modes. “Search” is meant to get you quick responses to search queries, “Tone” promises to tweak your writing style “to make your words sound more professional, casual, polite, or concise,” and “Chat” is the standard Bing Chat interface.
Initially, the Bing chatbot made headlines for both its novelty and the sometimes-weird, sometimes-wrong, sometimes-threatening responses it would generate in response to certain lines of questioning. Microsoft has made some changes since then, introducing different “personalities” to rein in the chatbot’s responses and imposing limits on the number of follow-up queries you can make in a single chat instance.
Moving beyond the AI-powered Bing features, Microsoft is also working on integrating generative AI into what used to be known as the Office suite. Microsoft’s Copilot will help write emails and documents, throw together PowerPoint presentations, and pull together outlines and action items from meeting transcripts. Bing Chat is powered by ChatGPT from OpenAI, which announced a “multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment” from Microsoft earlier this year.
Microsoft originally bought SwiftKey and its keyboard for a reported $250 million back in 2016. The Android version, which is also picking up the Bing Chat features today, was never discontinued or delisted from Google Play.