An Apple developer has found a keyboard feature never been used before, but was hidden since iOS 8 rolled out in September 2014.
The developer was able to find the little hidden feature by hacking the iOS app simulator. The keyboard appears to be a one-handed keyboard mode designed to reduce travel distance between keys for those who prefer typing with a single hand either left or right. It is activated by swiping either from either side of the iOS keyboard. The gesture pushes the keys closer to the corner, reducing their overall width as new dedicated cut, copy and paste shortcuts appear stacked on top of one another on the lefthand or righthand side.
It's interesting to note that Apple's iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus released around September 2014 as well, so the timeline fits. The one-handed feature likely was intended to aid typing in the devices' bigger screens.
Why this feature was absent from the public yet stashed inside iOS 8 still escapes the logic of many, since it would have made it easier for people to type on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
The developer who found the hidden feature in the iOS 8 codebase was Steve Troughton-Smith, and he tweeted out screenshots of the one-handed keyboard, and followed up with a video showing the feature in an iOS app simulation. The app simulator is a software that mimics real world iOS apps on the Mac, useful for app developers who want to do test runs for their iOS apps. TechCrunch has noted that the one-handed keyboard may possibly be activated on a jailbroken iPhone, but that's yet to be confirmed.
Today's fun hack (been there since at least iOS 8); the iOS keyboard has an unused left/right one-handed mode. Activated by edge-swipe pic.twitter.com/zIk7x7CVmu
— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) Oct. 19, 2016
Of course, every operating system has its own set of features that is hidden from public access, likely because that particular feature is largely undeveloped or rife with bugs but wasn't scrapped by the developers for future touch-ups. However, the one-handed keyboard feature looks fully formed and intended for wide usage, so it's unclear why Apple has decided to abridge it from the public. Granted, two-handed typing isn't really an abysmal concern for many iPhone users, but it would have been nice to know that the feature was available, since long period of typing on a large mobile screen can be strenuous.
One thing is for sure, though: Apple clearly is thinking about the disadvantages of having a larger screen on a handset since they also included a Reachability feature back in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. You double tap the home button and the app drawer is pulled down closer, making it easier for the users to access apps without hovering their hands above the screen.
Who knows? Maybe Apple could still roll it out for its latest flagship, the iPhone 7, in the near future. It remains to be seen whether the feature is also hidden away in iOS 10. Third-party apps offer the same functionality, though, like Microsoft's Word Flow Keyboard for iOS, which is designed around one-handed typing. Still, an official one would have been nice to see.