Microsoft is starting a private beta for its iPhone keyboard

Word Flow makes it easier to text with one hand

Microsoft has its own mobile operating system, but that hasn't stopped it from opening a public beta for a new iPhone keyboard.

That's right -- Microsoft's Garage incubator began the private beta for its Word Flow keyboard on Thursday, allowing users to sign up for access to the application as it's being refined. Users who get access to it will be able to install an app that replaces the iOS software keyboard with one made by Microsoft.

The Word Flow keyboard's leading feature is a one-handed typing mode that curves the keyboard around one bottom corner of the screen or another, so that it's easier for people who have another hand full to fire off a quick text message.

Word Flow also syncs with a user's list of contacts, so it's able to autocomplete saved names more easily. People who want a little more style can choose from a set of themes that make it look different from just a standard white typing surface.

And yes, emoji fans will be able to insert their favorite smiley faces, food items and more. Although Microsoft showed off a new set of Windows 10 emoji with a recent beta build, the keyboard will use the standard iOS emoji.

It's unclear when the keyboard will see a broad release. Interested folks can sign up for the closed beta here, but it's not clear how Microsoft is picking testers, or how many will be chosen.

The news comes two months after Microsoft announced it was acquiring SwiftKey, the makers of a popular keyboard for iOS and Android. Overall, this is another announcement in a long string of news from Microsoft that's focused on expanding the company's products to other platforms like iOS.

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Blair Hanley Frank

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