Enhance iOS Keyboard Switching Experience for Multilingual Users

Enabled keyboards should be separated in two groups:

  1. Frequently-used keyboards.
  2. Occasionally-used keyboards.

Examples of frequently-used keyboards include English keyboard for English users and Chinese keyboard for Chinese users.

Examples of occasionally-used keyboards include Emoji keyboard and other special keyboards like 3rd party GIF keyboards.

If you are a monolingual user you are unlikely to feel the need of a separate group of occasionally-used keyboard. Most of you enable at most two keyboards, your language keyboard and Emoji keyboard. Switching between two keyboards is never an issue because it never incurs unnecessary inconvenience. You always switch to your target keyboard directly and immediately.

However, if you are a multilingual user like me or many other Chinese(I guess also many other English-as-second-language users) users, things are very different. We use both Chinese and English keyboards. We type mixture of Chinese and English very often so we need to switch between the two frequently. If Chinese and English are the only keyboard we use there will be no issues, as explained above. But Emoji is fun and we also want to use it, occasionally.

So multilingual users like me enable at least 3 keyboards. Only the two(more if you speak more than two languages) language keyboards of them are frequently-used. We want easy switch between these two keyboards but also want occasional switch to other fun keyboards. The current design of keyboard switcher makes this kind of usage a suffer.

For example, I use Chinese, English and Emoji and my keyboard setting is in this order. Suppose now I’m typing in Chinese. 5 seconds later I need to type in English, so I tap the globe button to switch to English. So far so good. Another 5 seconds later I need to type in Chinese, so I tap the globe button again. But it is now in Emoji, not Chinese. So I have to tap the globe button once again to finally get back to Chinese keyboard.

This extra tap-to-switch may seem trivial but it adds up very quickly — remember we switch between Chinese and English very frequently. For those who use more than one fun keyboards the extra cost is even higher.

I know I can long press the globe button to present the keyboard picker and pick my target keyboard directly. But of course it is not really “direct” and is actually even more inconvenient and slower than cycling through the whole chain of my 3 keyboards.

However, long-press-to-present-keyboard-picker can be very useful for switching to occasionally-used keyboards.

So here is my design proposal:

  1. Enabled keyboards can be put in one of the two groups: frequently-used keyboards and occasionally-used keyboards.
  2. Considering most uses are monolingual, in order to avoid unnecessary recognition burdens on them, only the frequently-used keyboard group is shown by default. Only after a user enables more than 2 keyboards should the occasionally-used keyboard group be shown and an explanation be given.
  3. Single tap on the globe button only switches among frequently-used keyboards.
  4. Long press the globe button to present the keyboard picker which includes all enabled keyboards so users can switch to their occasionally-used keyboards.Single tap on the globe button while using a occasionally-used keyboard switches back to the previously selected frequently-used keyboard.

If you are suffering the same issue and like this prososal please duplicate this radar.