The rumors of Google building an iPhone-specific keyboard were true. On Thursday, Google revealed Gboard, a virtual keyboard designed to cut back on the amount of app-switching needed to send information to your pals.
Gboard bakes in GIF searches and emoji support to achieve that goal, but the highlight feature here is Gboard’s native Google Search integration. Tapping a prominent Google logo on the keyboard brings up a search interface, with results appearing in the form of Google’s “cards” that have key information like store hours and phone numbers highlighted. After finding the search information you need, Gboard lets you easily transfer it into the keyboard for immediate use with a single tap—no clunky app-switching or copy-pasting necessary. Sounds pretty handy-dandy.
Continuing on the ease-of-use theme, Google’s keyboard also features “Glide Typing,” which allows you to glide your fingers from letter to letter rather than taking them off your screen, with predictive results appearing at the top as Gboard guesses at what you’re trying to spit out. The Swype and Word Flow keyboards behave in a similar manner.
The story behind the story: Google makes its money by knowing as much about you as it possibly can, then shoving hyper-targeted ads in your face—but Apple’s slowly been pushing Google services out of the iPhone ecosystem. Gboard might help Google stay front and center in iPhone users’ lives if it catches on, as well as provide Google with juicy predictive typing and personal data. Plus, it’ll push more people towards web searches, a Google strength that’s all-too-often neglected in the app-crazy mobile world.
Google isn’t the only company using virtual keyboards as a Trojan horse, either. Microsoft recently brought Windows Phone’s beloved Word Flow keyboard to iOS, with an Android release planned for later this year, and also purchased the popular SwiftKey keyboard for iOS and Android. The battle for your emoji-slinging fingers is on.
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Brad Chacos spends his days digging through desktop PCs and tweeting too much. He covers gaming and graphics for PCWorld, and spends his mornings running the news desk for PCWorld, Macworld, Greenbot, and TechHive.