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3rd get together keyboards may possibly feel like an app trend blast from the latest previous. But the smartphone keyboard place could be established for a shake up as extensive time participant Fleksy will get a new group doing the job comprehensive time on the app. Barcelona-primarily based keyboard startup, ThingThing, announced currently that it’s achieved a deal with Fleksy’s founders to acquire about development of the app.

The hope, states ThingThing co-founder Olivier Plante, is that a custom made keyboard “phoenix” can increase from the ashes — to offer you an impartial option to the likes of Google’s Gboard or the now Microsoft-owned SwiftKey. Apple of course also gives upcoming-term prediction on the default iOS keyboard.

Versus such mainstream statements on smartphone users’ typing fingers, Fleksy’s app touts “powerful” autocorrect technology — which it statements can make sense even if you mis-sort every letter of a term. It also supports a wide range of gestures to more assist pace up typing, and gives personalization solutions such as themes and distinct format solutions, as very well as extensions — such as for sending GIFs through the keyboard.

It also utilised to offer you a cloud service for people today who want to more tailor the keyboard’s predictive output to how they sort.

Google Enjoy lists Fleksy’s Android app as obtaining experienced involving 5M and 10M installs to day. Having said that neither the Android nor iOS app has been current given that April 2016 — and assessments of the iOS app particularly flag tons of issues with lag and the app crashing. These iOS bugs are remaining set in an update currently, according to ThingThing.

The group is also protection reviewing Fleksy’s cloud products and services, so that, in CTO Francesc Garcia’s words, “we can empower them once more with the optimum confidence”.

Dev operate on Fleksy ground to a in the vicinity of-halt right after fifty percent the group was acquired by Pinterest in June final year. The visual social network did not receive the keyboard by itself, which we were being explained to at the time of the acquihire would be retained running with minimal updates.

Some elements of Fleksy have given that been open sourced, though the comprehensive keyboard app has not. And it’s development of that which will now be led by ThingThing’s 10-solid group, by itself beefed up with some new Android developers so it can aid equally cell platforms.

ThingThing has its personal custom made keyboard app for iOS, introduced in August 2015 — which has a distinct productiveness emphasis vs Fleksy, with a target on treating the keyboard as a products and services system to pull in third get together apps at the stage of messaging require (so they develop into in-keyboard micro apps, with stripped again but applicable features to the messaging use-circumstance).

The group also constructed its personal upcoming-term prediction tech to be in a position to offer you its personal in-app keyboard, and states it performs to a ‘privacy-by-design’ philosophy — by, for case in point, implementing area, on device processing instead than pulling typing information up into a cloud for processing. The Seedcamp-backed startup closed its $400k seed round just about a year back.

The blended lively person-base of ThingThing and Fleksy is 1.five million at this stage, according to Plante. And even though the ThingThing app is iOS only, most of Fleksy’s person-base (circa 80 for each cent) is on Android where by there’s arguably the most urgent require for an impartial, privacy-centered custom made keyboard — i.e. a keyboard that’s not actively harvesting your research strings and/or striving to serve you in-keyboard banner adverts.

“The [Fleksy] group still left to Pinterest and then shortly right after we started to communicate with the founders, even a little bit just before,” Plante tells TechCrunch, conveying how the two startups acquired conversing. “We were being very intrigued in what they’ve constructed and comprehension the good reasons at the rear of it.

“We started to exchange visions — of what is the position of the keyboard in the market, and how the OS is likely to evolve in the future… [Our visions were being] aligned in values, and — for occasion — every thing all over privacy it’s very solid on their side and it’s often been very solid on our side.

We want to be a very private keyboard. The only private keyboard in the market. That certainly thinks that every thing wants to be processed regionally and the algorithm sits on the cell phone.

“We want to be a very private keyboard. The only private keyboard in the market. That certainly thinks that every thing wants to be processed regionally and the algorithm sits on the cell phone.”

“So we aligned on a lot of, a lot of elements,” he provides. “We’re now starting to be the best impartial participant in the market.”

Plante declines to ensure no matter whether ThingThing is attaining the Fleksy keyboard outright, reiterating that right now the information is “we’re taking about development of the product”. But it very evidently has huge strategies for firing new daily life into Fleksy.

On the updates front, he states the group has a “very, very big” products start coming in fall, in addition to the bug take care of update for the iOS app that’s out currently — so Plante urges Fleksy end users who may possibly have lapsed to redownload the app. Fleksy will go on to be a absolutely free obtain, he confirms, with some in-app buys for additions.

ThingThing’s overarching approach, states Plante, is to inject its products and services target and features into Fleksy’s predictive custom made keyboard, so it’s aiming to grow and establish on the latter’s core tech and USP through the start of an open products and services system — which is also its prepared route for monetizing Fleksy in future (so, yes, no adverts).

“We’ll be launching new products and services and new extensions that I feel the Fleksy end users of currently [definitely want],” he states, more confirming: “We’re signing up for the solutions together.”

The ThingThing iOS keyboard now lets end users obtain other products and services, such as their camera roll to right seize pics or a third get together service like Dropbox to pull in data files, all without having needing to go away the keyboard and consequently no require to fall out of whichever messaging application they are applying to seize what ever material they want to paste into their chat.

Previous summer time the group also additional the ability to deliver meeting invites right in the keyboard.

“With us taking about the development of the Fleksy keyboard we’re closer than at any time to this vision of starting to be the keyboard as a system,” argues Plante. “We’ll inherit an remarkable typing expertise, and at the identical time we’ll have the terrific products and services within our system.”

“We want to acquire [Fleksy] and then make improvements to it vastly — which demonstrates the wants of today’s entire world. With ThingThing we validated the point that the service system has a great deal of sense. Possessing products and services in the keyboard, that shortcuts your day-to-day activities… but we’re opening this vision to other service suppliers.

“So you could obtain Spotify, YouTube, all the products and services that exist that end users require, for occasion. And with the additional worth of Fleky remaining a definitely terrific typing expertise, with shortcuts to delete super speedily, to adjust languages in the keyboard.”

“We’ll carry our understanding and execution in the products and services part of it and also underlying systems that we’re doing the job on,” he provides, noting for case in point that Fleksy supports about forty five languages which offers ThingThing a more powerful base from which to establish on and execute its products and services vision.

The Fleksy model identify will remain, confirms Plante, but there will be a refreshed glimpse and come to feel to the app and brand with the intention of updating models that are searching a little bit exhausted at this stage.

“Our target is to develop into the best impartial keyboard app but also to offer a premium glimpse and come to feel, a premium expertise,” he provides. “The full group has been making premium solutions just before and this is what we want to offer end users — come to feel premium but premium doesn’t require to price tag thousands of dollars.”

What about ThingThing’s personal keyboard app? What’s likely to occur to that in future? Plante states the group hasn’t nonetheless determined no matter whether they will go on to run it as a standalone. “We’re nonetheless speaking about internally about what we will do this fall,” he states. (While it’s likely a pretty secure wager to forecast that ThingThing’s app will correctly be folded into the Fleksy keyboard likely forward.)

A further dilemma here is why even Fleksy + ThingThing blended, nonetheless with constrained methods and a rather little person base, will be in a position to compete with keyboard giants such as Apple and SwiftKey-owner Microsoft — and make an formidable vision of the smartphone keyboard as a system fly, when in essence all other key keyboard gamers have opted for exits as an alternative.

It’s fair to say that no one particular has managed to establish major momentum at the rear of a keyboard system engage in — nonetheless.

Responding on this Plante argues that the sector has been distracted by “over-hyped” option conversation and enter systems, such as voice and chatbots — so, as he sees it, the likely of the keyboard to universally lower across a smartphone user’s expertise has been mainly ignored. And hence continues to be largely untapped.

He also argues there’s a very obvious strategic require now for an impartial, neutral keyboard system, what with SwiftKey obtaining marketed to Microsoft.

“I feel that in the startup entire world and usually in the market people today soar on those people developments without having definitely questioning the position quo,” he states of systems such as voice and chatbots. “At ThingThing we dilemma the position quo that the keyboard, alongside voice, alongside the messengers, alongside the working technique, there’s distinct roles and the keyboard normally takes a position that no one particular is searching at right now. No one particular is searching at the keyboard in a distinct way.

There’s also no impartial participant — and that’s where by we appear in. To definitely establish that neutral system.

“There’s also no impartial participant — and that’s where by we appear in. To definitely establish that neutral system. With solid ability in definitely producing micro-ordeals that make sense within the keyboard. And what will make a big difference is then it’s the positioning in the market currently. We’re the only impartial participant in the prosperous, multimedia keyboard market where by you’re in a position to share GIFs and stickers but also obtain your products and services.”

“Our goal is not to substitute the apps,” he provides. “What we want to carry is the right worth within a messaging context, or an e mail context, for those people service suppliers — like Yelp and Foursquare or Spotify and YouTube or what ever.

“It’s like 10 for each cent of the worth of YouTube will be within the keyboard. The core presenting of YouTube… that’s what we want to offer — within the keyboard.”

Plante points out that most third get together service suppliers that are trapped present as apps within telephones are more and more seeing “less and significantly less monitor time” — as a handful of social and messaging giants (largely Facebook at this stage) gobble up their users’ time and focus.

Nevertheless the keyboard could offer you a route for these apps to go on to access end users when they are locked within Messenger, or Instagram, or WhatsApp, or what ever.

“The messengers are walled gardens so the only gate that you have will be our system,” Plante argues. “And with an lively person base, and with pretty much your service at user’s finger idea — it’s like one particular button away — you’re there, in all the apps, it doesn’t subject.”

The tactic will make a great deal of sense. The crucial dilemma is no matter whether adequate smartphone end users can be convinced of the worth of switching their keyboard to buy into Fleksy + ThingThing’s huge vision.



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