For the past week, I’ve been using a fantastic GIF keyboard on my iPhone by none other than Giphy, the company responsible for most of the GIFs you see on the internet. Giphy Keys is available on Tuesday in the App Store, and if you like GIFs, you’re going to want to download it ASAP.
It’s somewhat ironic that Giphy, which powers most existing third-party GIF keyboards, is just now releasing a keyboard of its own. But as someone who has personally tested many GIF keyboards over the years, I can confirm that Giphy Keys is worth the wait.
Setting up a third-party keyboard on the iPhone is a little convoluted. Once you download the free Giphy Keys app for the iPhone (an Android version is in the works but not out yet), you have to add it as an active keyboard from the Settings app. After the initial setup, you can easily switch to Giphy Keys from Apple’s default keyboard.
Giphy Keys is divided into six sections: 1) a list of currently trending GIFs from Giphy’s homepage, 2) GIFs sorted by reactions like “WTF” and “LOL,” 3) GIFs for categories like “animals” and “celebrities,” 4) GIFs you’ve favorited for quick access, 5) recent GIFs you’ve used, and 6) Giphy Integrations.
The last Integrations tab is full of fun, experimental GIF magic that Giphy’s team is quick to boast on. There’s Echo, which lets you type any word and turn it into a flashy, colourful GIF. So “Whoa” becomes “WHOA” illuminated by a psychedelic, pulsating rainbow of colours that’s sure to make your head spin.
The weather integration lets you enter any zip code and get the weather conditions for the area in GIF form. The 8 ball option responds to any yes or no question (i.e. “Should we get pizza tonight?”) with a GIF reaction.
What’s unique about Giphy’s keyboard from an overall design perspective is that it allows you to access GIFs and type text. That may not sound like a big deal, but it practically means you can compose messages and use your iPhone normally without having to switch back and forth between keyboards.
The decision to give you full access to a normal keyboard alongside GIFs was deliberate.
“We don’t think you’re only communicating in GIFs,” Giphy’s Jillian Fisher, who oversaw development of the keyboard for the past year, told Tech Insider. “We really just wanted to make it as not-infuriating as possible.”
There’s a lot of technical work that went into making Giphy Keys a powerful and yet simple-to-use tool for sharing GIFs. Giphy’s lead iOS developer, Stephen Sowole, told TI that it took months to figure out how to let you search for GIFs from the text entry bubble where you type messages — a process that feels equally brilliant and obvious the first time you try it.
There was also the challenge of building an interface for accessing millions of GIFs that made sense to use within roughly one inch of screen real estate. No small feat.
Giphy’s team is proud of the keyboard, but now that it’s out in the wild, they’re eager to see how people use it in everyday conversation. “We want to blow their minds with GIFs,” said Sowole.
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