Giphy, a startup company spun out of New York-based tech company Betaworks, wants to make finding and sharing the right GIFs easy across every platform. From Facebook, Twitter and Slack to Gmail to Chrome and Firefox extensions, Giphy is making sure the communication tool of the future is easily accessible. That’s why Giphy CEO Alex Chung and his colleagues made the Giphy search app for your smartphone, to pinpoint and share moving images on the go. Now the startup is taking things one step further with Giphy Keys.
The iOS keyboard isn’t the first GIF keyboard to hit Apple’s app store. But odds are you probably thought whatever GIF keyboard you have already installed was Giphy’s option, since other apps imitate Giphy’s look and feel. But know the truth: Giphy Keys is the company’s one and only first-party solution.
Firing up the keyboard is similar to the experience of most other keyboards on Apple’s platform. You’ll need to head to the Keyboard section in the general area of Settings. This will allow you to add the keyboard and Enable Full Access, which is required here too.
Interestingly, searching for a GIF has users enter text in the compose field, rather than a separate text field. According to Jillian Fisher, Giphy’s Director of Mobile Products, “almost all of the other GIF keyboards out there right now share the same layout: two rows, all GIFs, and this really frustrating habit of trapping you inside of it.” Fisher continues, “If you’ve ever tried to start a new text thread, or type a URL in a browser, and been unable to type because all you have are images under your thumb, the obtrusion gets old fast.” Giphy Keys default view is a keyboard with icons leading to the gif portions of the app. An icon at the top right summons back the QWERTY keyboard.
Simply hitting the search icon enters a magnifying glass emoji in the compose field. Your recipient will see the typing indicator shows that you’re still composing a response, even if it’s one comprised of a moving image. While this could be useful for some, those who don’t like the feature can’t turn it off.
Additionally, Giphy Keys’ ability to recognize what’s being typed into the message window may have some worried about privacy concerns. The company understands this, and says it’s taken steps to reassure users. “We, unfortunately have no way to deliver Giphy GIFs without complete access,” says Stephen Sowole, Giphy’s lead iOS developer. “However, users can rest assured that we do not collect, store or track personal information.”
The app’s keyboard can be used to type out messages (with autocorrect off) along with search for gifs. Options in the icon row above the keys allow for switching between search, reactions, categories, favorites and previously used images. Giphy also allows access to secret hack functions in the magic 8 ball section like #Echo, #Weather, #8Ball, #Text and #Sticker. #Echo, for example, allows you to type in a word and see it appear as a GIF of animated text. #Weather lets you type in a zip code and receive a moving image depicting said weather.
But anyone who’s used a third-party keyboard with their iOS device can tell you that non-Apple keyboards on the iPhone are rarely a good experience. “Anyone that has had the pleasure of working on a custom iOS keyboard, limitation is an all-too-familiar term,” says Sowole. Even keyboard apps like SwiftKey or Nintype do their fair share of crashing. While Giphy Keys has yet to crash on me, I’m bracing myself for the day it eventually does.
With the release of their official GIF keyboard app, Giphy Keys is the best way to tap into the company’s growing repository of funny moving images while messaging. Until we learn how to fluently speak in gifs, that is.