Google may release an iPhone keyboard with built-in search and GIFs

Here come the mobile keyboard wars.

google keyboard numbers 1
Credit: Derek Walter

Google may be working on a software keyboard for the iPhone, with web search as a featured attraction.

Unnamed sources told The Verge that Google has been developing the iOS keyboard for months, though it’s unclear if or when the company might release it. Similar to Google’s existing Android keyboard (pictured above), the iPhone version would reportedly allow for gesture typing, which predicts the intended word as users trace their fingers over each letter.

The big difference, however, would be a built-in Google button that provides access to web search. (The Verge’s story doesn’t spell out where search results would appear, or if the button is just a shortcut to Google’s existing Search app for iOS.) The keyboard may also have GIF and image buttons, which could tie into Google Image search.

If the report is accurate, the Google keyboard would be noteworthy for a couple of reasons. One is the trend of third-party keyboards introducing special features within the typing space, whether it’s unusual symbols, built-in translation, or a quick way to schedule meetings. Easy access to search would fit right into the toolbox that the iOS keyboard selector is becoming.

The Google Keyboard could also represent a counter-attack against Microsoft, which has been working on iOS and Android versions of its own Word Flow keyboard. In February, Microsoft also announced plans to acquire third-party keyboard maker SwiftKey, taking note how the startup’s predictive technology “aligns with our vision for more personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands.”

Why this matters: Even if Google’s interests aren’t as ambitious, The Verge’s report shows how software keyboards may become key strategic territory for big tech firms. While certain aspects of iOS are out of the search giant’s control—such as integration with Siri instead of Google voice search—the keyboard provides a way to keep Google’s services front-and-center.

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