Today Google released Gboard, which is unfortunately not a Google-branded self-driving hoverboard, but rather a new keyboard for Apple iOS devices.
The new keyboard essentially brings the Android experience to the iPhone, with a few additional benefits. Users can swipe across the keyboard (instead of typing out each letter) to get their messages out more quickly. While Gboard is not the only third-party keyboard that brings this functionality to the iPhone (SwiftKey is a popular keyboard that does this), Google’s keyboard does have a feature others don’t: It brings the power of Google search to every app.
Users can type something, press the Google logo, and start a search, without leaving whatever conversation they’re having. If they’re making dinner plans with a friend in Facebook Messenger, for example, they can tap the logo, search for “tacos in West Village,” and make a plan. This saves a few steps that, while not terribly onerous, are rather clunky: having to switch out of the app, open Google search or a web browser, find the answer, and then go back to the text conversation. The keyboard also lets you search for images and GIFs, for handy insertion into chats, and saves your recent searches.
Another key addition: Instead of having to wade through the library of emoji to find the one you’re after, Google’s keyboard allows you just to type its name and pop in: For example, typing “haha” brings up 😂 and “awesome” brings up 💯. A major 🔑, if you will.
Some argue that this is an attempt from Google to keep the company in the search process on iPhones. Searching through Siri or the Spotlight pull-down search both make Apple the first point of contact for search, rather than Google. Google’s keyboard brings search back through Google, meaning that potentially it could choose to serve ads in keyboard searches, as it does on mobile searches.
The new keyboard is available for free download for US iPhone users on the App Store from today.