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Google Launches Gboard Keyboard for iOS Devices

A long-rumored app from Google aims to make browsing with a mobile device easier than ever. The company today launched Gboard, a new application for iOS that enables Google search directly from a mobile device’s keyboard.

The app makes searches simpler and also offers swipe-based typing and access to GIFs and such commonly used keyboard functions as emojis and word predictions. And the keyboard integrates directly with Google’s services. Tapping a G-shaped icon instantly enables a user to search Google without exiting the keyboard and launching a browser.

The app enables a user to search for items, such as news articles, restaurant listings and weather forecasts, right from the keyboard. The user can then just tap the item to instantly paste it into a conversation or e-mail, for example.

The information is presented at the bottom of the screen of the iOS device and each listing has its own card-style layout. The data is pasted as hyperlinked text, enabling the user to instantly get a listing in Google Maps, call a business, or perform a deeper Internet search.

Browsing Made Easier

The goal of Gboard is to bring the best of Google to a mobile setting, Google engineer Rajan Patel said in a blog post. Patel also hinted that personalized keyboards might be the next step for the search giant.

Is this a worthwhile addition to your iOS phone’s arsenal of apps? IDC analyst William Stofega told us the answer is yes. “If you’re using Google a lot on your mobile device, why wouldn’t you want something like this?” asked Stofega. “As long as you’re aware of the data they’re probably collecting and you’re comfortable with that, a lot of people are going to be happy with that trade-off.”

Gboard also supports GIF search via a partnership with GIF keyboard maker Riffsy. To find a relevant GIF, a user only has to tap a smiley emoji on the device’s keyboard, and then use a toggle at the bottom of the screen to switch to a GIF search section that can be searched by keyword or by preloaded categories.

Speech-to-Text Next?

The new keyboard application also lets users choose between typing and swiping. For the latter, a user just has to drag a finger between letters, making one-handed typing simpler, similar to Microsoft’s recently released Word Flow iOS keyboard.

Is it possible to make browsing and communicating via mobile devices any easier? Stofega said there’s one world left to conquer for now — text to speech.

“Text-to-speech capability that can work around background noise is a tough nut to crack,” he said. “A lot of people like to use their devices for searching and other tasks while they’re driving, and while the technology has gotten much better, it still has a ways to go.”

The new app is available now as a free download in the iTunes App Store. Currently, it’s only available in English, although Google said more languages for Gboard are on the way.

Image Credit: Gboard iOS App screenshot via Google.

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