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Gboard: Search, GIFs, emojis and more from your iPhone keyboard (googleblog.blogspot.com)
284 points by crb on May 12, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 84 comments

I've been using this keyboard on and off for a few months and overall really enjoy it, but is not without its downsides.

Pros: Glide is really well done if you like it. I'm not a glide person (and haven't taken the time to get used to it), so it's nice you can disable it if you'd like. Emoji auto-suggest is pretty fun, I've been tempted to use it in emails but avoided it for now. :) The dictionary it populates from your commonly used words is fairly aggressive (which I like), so it picks up on unique words quickly (and it is easy to clear/reset this list at any time). Being able to send people animates gifs with ease over txt message or whatever service is pretty fun. Overall it's pretty easy to type on, just takes a little getting used to compared to the default iOS keyboard (finger detection differs slightly), but I'm able to type just as fast on it.

Cons: Most of my issues are really due to the API limitations Apple has in place. This keyboard is disabled on password fields (as are all 3rd party keyboards). There is no voice dictation (siri or Google's). You have to paste in images from the search (the keyboard can't auto-insert images for you, but text only search results can be auto-pasted with "share"). Landscape mode on an iPhone 6s takes up lots of screen real estate.

The opinions stated here are my own, not necessarily those of Google.

Agree, it's really nice! The only other Con I've found so far:

It's frustrating to have the "Google" wordmark always shown on top of the keyboard's search results, since it uses up another 10% of the screen real estate for no value at all. Just a pure branding play that doesn't help the user solve their actual goal.

"3D" touch for placing the cursor doesn't seem to work either. Probably my favorite feature

Instead you can just swipe the spacebar left or right. It works much better than the iOS 3D touch cursor movement, which seems to false-negative on my force touch very frequently (at least half the time, for me).

Thanks for the hint on swiping the spacebar. I still miss the ability to move the cursor vertically and select with the trackpad but this at least makes Gboard usable for me.

I think I had the same false-negative problem you are describing with 3D touch trackpad, but it seemed to get a lot better for me with the iOS 9.3 release. Maybe I'm imagining it, but it seemed like there were improvements to whatever algorithm determines a user's intention for normal vs 3D touch.

On the other hand, maybe I trained myself to their algorithm. It seems like starting with light contact and increasing pressure is a more reliable trigger than just going in with firm pressure right away.

From my experience, the force touch trackpad cursor only works if you wait 1s between the last normal touch and the force touch.

Agree - Love this. Thanks for the tip

Not trying to be aggressive here, genuinely curious - is it necessary for you to say "The opinions stated here are my own, not necessarily those of Google."? Would you get screwed over for saying this kind of stuff without the disclaimer?

I prefer to be clear here and disclose my conflict of interest (since I work there) and that I speak for myself only. I'm not sure if it's required that I put it, but I prefer to be clear when it's topics related to Google.

Most companies I've ever worked at (like Cisco) are very explicit that you can't talk at all about stuff your company does (unless you are a VP or granted permission to talk on their behalf). You will see many Googlers talk on forums like this and they don't need permission, but are doing so on their own without the explicit permission from the company. Google seems to be open about letting us speak publicly about stuff our company does, but that we aren't speaking on their behalf. I feel it needs to be made explicitly clear to anyone reading it that it's my own opinion.

I was going to thank you for saying it. It makes your opinion seem more trustworthy than that of the Googler's who write about Google without disclosing the relationship.

i was personally surprised that glide wasn't given top position in the announcement, since that's the one feature i've seen lots of ios users envy from android.

Swype and other keyboards with similar functionality have been available since iOS 8's release. It makes sense they'd highlight the new functionality over that.

They aren't very good, though. I use swype since switching to iOS last year and it's honestly a slog to use compared to the android keyboard.

I actually understand now why so many iphone aficionados don't like the idea of this kind of typing.

I just installed the keyboard and it has voice dictation...

The App Store page addresses my immediate concern with giving Google access to every single thing I type on my phone:

> What Gboard sends to Google:

> When you do a search, Gboard sends your query to Google’s web servers so Google can process your query and send you search results. Gboard also sends anonymous statistics to Google to help us diagnose problems when the app crashes and to let us know which features are used most often.

> What Gboard doesn’t send to Google:

> Everything else. Gboard will remember words you type to help you with spelling or to predict searches you might be interested in, but this data is stored only on your device. This data is not accessible by Google or by any apps other than Gboard.

So it's like using Google? It also stores data to help with spellcheck and autocorrect like any other keyboard? I'm honestly confused what you're trying to point out.

(edit: my mistake, I thought you were raising privacy concerns, not saying that your concerns were assuaged)

I believe GP was saying that the quoted text made them no longer concerned.

My concerns were indeed assuaged. Generally I am overly cautious but I trust Google enough when they say the data isn't transmitted to them.

Oh, I apologize. I thought you were being critical but I see what you're saying.

What I'd like to know is if anything searched for is tied to my google account. Even if this keyboard doesn't require you to log in, Google can get your user info from any other google app you are logged in to (gmail, maps, etc)...

I'm not sure why you're being downvoted for this. It's one of my concerns, as well. The idea of inviting Google into my text messages, which is a far more private and unfiltered place than my Google searches in a browser, makes me a bit uneasy. The parent's notice that it wasn't transmitting everything one types is helpful. I send a lot of GIFs, so this would only make my workflow faster, but I don't want to have everything I do with a keyboard tied to my Google account because I'm using a keyboard.

It makes me a bit sad to recognize that my first thoughts and reactions to many Google announcements these days—even silly and playful ones—is to start ticking off and formulating potential vectors for identifying and collecting things about me that can be turned into juicy bits for advertisers.

I have to assume that it is. Search results are personalised in the browser, I assume they'll want to do the same here too.

As far as I can tell there is no way to log in to the keyboard, and the searches from the keyboard are not showing up in my search history.

This is a fantastic strategic move from Google. At the moment, in the mobile advertising space, Facebook has the upper hand, with much faster growth and way more DAUs and average daily in-app time. Facebook also threatens Google's search ad rev if they can build a Messenger based personal AI assistant that becomes people's go-to for service and product queries.

On Google's Q1 2016 earning call, Ruth Porat described how they were seeing lots of growth in mobile, but a compression in net margin. This was because traffic acquisition costs (TAC) on mobile are higher. Gboard could be a really effective measure to reverse that trend.

Gboard gets Google onto the iPhone almost at a "hypervisor" level. Every app with text input (especially Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram) will have Google branding when the keyboard is up and all the features that Gboard brings. Google is doing really well in the AI space as well, so expect to see more intelligent features integrated into Gboard as it matures.

Great move.

Really great keyboard, but I don't agree with the decision to replace San Fransisco with Roboto. The weight and position of the type is off on the keys, and it makes the keyboard feel less native than it should.

They've made the conscious decision to use their Material design and Roboto in all their iOS apps. This is funny because in their Android UI documents they stress that you should stick with the OS style. But, they do exactly the opposite on iOS. It's one of the reasons why I use the Google apps as little as possible.

I doubt I'll use this keyboard. I have an iPhone 5 so screen space is limited and I don't want to waste it on a big Google logo in my keyboard. Plus, I can't see that I'll have much use for it.

It does not feel native. But after some usage the native keyboard will feel a bit out of place.

Good news for you. John Gruber reviewed Gboard and one of his complaints in regard to the UI stylings was that "they should have gone the whole way and used San Francisco for the typeface, too."

To which Rajan Patel replied:

>"@daringfireball ..[we should go all the way w/ design]..

Google apps on iOS are a clusterfuck. You should see YouTube, for example.

YouTube is the same clusterfuck on Android as well.

I use YouTube daily on my iPhone with Red and it is incredibly feature dense and useful and because of good search pretty quick too. It does seem crowded but I have difficulty imagining a better solution and really like the App.

I just installed this. It's a really good keyboard: responsive, and "glide" typing and corrections work implausibly well. I haven't tried the search features yet, but it's winning me over from the stock keyboard.

Security would be an issue, but I'd really like to be able to have a lastpass button that allowed me to copy passwords without leaving the app.

3rd party keyboards can't be used on password fields; it's an OS-level restriction.

Most apps that have a "Share" button (like Safari) can use the official Lastpass addon to auto-fill usernames/passwords without having to leave the app.

There's no need to copy-and-paste the passwords either since it fills the form field for you.

It's very odd to me that Google would release this on iOS first. I understand the value of iOS market share but when you have your own platform...

I think this looks really good, doesn't seem to be in the UK App Store yet or I'd have installed it already.

Android has had these features for a long time. Google published their own keyboard (with glide typing / etc) in June 2013 - https://plus.google.com/+android/posts/caeWaRkUyrE , but glide typing keyboards have existed on Android for many years before that.

The searching existing on-screen context / inserting relevant data is actually MUCH better on Android in the form of Now On Tap, which came out with Android M around this time last year - http://gizmodo.com/google-now-on-tap-hands-on-contextual-awe... . It has the added benefit of looking at what's on your screen to figure out what you want vs the new iOS keyboard where you have to click the G, then type in whatever you were interested in again.

This app is basically just trying to cram as much as they can into the keyboard, since they can't offer an option like Now On Tap on iOS due to Apple restrictions.

It has those features indirectly - if i want to text my wife a picture of a typing dog, i can hit Now On Tap, search for the picture, hit share, hangouts, wife, and insert a picture of a typing dog, but it isn't rolled up in to the keyboard app like the IOS Gboard being shown here. (Unless I'm missing something...)

It's also worth noting that regardless of which keyboard or combination of apps you're using on Android, it's not possible to send an animated GIF as an MMS attachment without dropping so many frames that the clip becomes essentially unwatchable.

If you're sending a Hangouts message (Google account to Google account) it works just fine. Otherwise, even if you roll all your SMS/MMS activity into the Hangouts app, no dice.

But the advantage of not having to switch apps is still missing on Android.

I don't think it's "cramming it in" when that's the main benefit of the system.

Now on Tap is available anywhere in Android (even when you don't have a keyboard / input area displayed) by just holding down the home / circle key. There's no switching of apps required.

NoT doesn't allow you to copy the SERs back into the previous app/keyboard context does it? It seems like at least one app "switch" is still required to share what you just looked up, because it takes you out of the app to present the search results.

I just opened Hangouts and pressed and held my Home button for NoT.

After a few seconds of analyzing the screenshot it finally came back with a "no results found" screen with a Google Search field at the top.

I typed in "dancing cat gif".

Switched to the Google Now app for results.

Tapped Images to get image results.

Found the gif I wanted, tapped on the gif.

Gif opened and played. Pressed and held on the gif, nothing happened because Google Now doesn't let you press & hold to save images.

iOS has unique sandboxing restrictions that make third-party keyboards much less useful than they could be on, say, Android.

Much of the creativity comes with figuring out how to circumventing that constraint, or how to flourish within it.

I think that's because it doesn't support UK English now, only US English.

Wow this is a really interesting way to make inroads into chat apps. Plus since it's at the keyboard level it transcends to all installed apps.

Anybody familiar with the iOS APIs for this to know if it's an "always on" type of thing? i.e. can they use this to track everything typed everywhere as long as the keyboard is enabled or does it require the "G" button like in the pic?

If you grant a keyboard "Full Access" in iOS (which is required for network access) then it does indeed have the ability to transmit everything back to a host. But Google says they do not do that:


The on-screen keyboard belongs to the app, which therefore knows about anything you type with the keyboard, and in theory could transmit that information to Google. I'd be amazed to see that get past App Store review, though.

Interesting one thing the keyboard is missing is the ability to switch to dark theme for some parts of iOS and some apps. It makes it look out of place an awkward in some contexts. I imagine this is some system level limitation in API. Other then that its quite good! I could really see this as new way for me to use Google more often. And Im loving the swipe to text!

I just gave this a try, and I have to say, I'm impressed. I'm a very good touch typist on a keyboard, but I'm nothing special on a touchscreen. This definitely ups my accuracy, even in quick bursts (I realize it's not in the title, but the overall keyboard is much more responsive, it's not just the added functionality).

When I installed this, it wanted me to "Allow Full Access", which then came up with a pop-up from iOS saying: "Full access allows the developer of this keyboard to transmit anything you type, including things you have previously typed with this keyboard. This could include sensitive information such as your credit card number or street address."

This seems pretty sketchy.

I'm not sure how this keyboard could work any other way - the whole value prop is that you can search from the keyboard, and it would be pretty hard to send your search queries to google if it couldn't send the things you type to google.

the app store description is pretty clear on what it actually sends to google, and it's actually less than what most keyboards send - swype, the standard google keyboard on android, and i think most others send everything up to their respective servers so they can sync personalized predictions across devices, this keyboard only sends the queries that you explicitly ask google to search for.

That seems antithetical to the Apple statement about "This could include sensitive information such as your credit card number or street address." Anyway to confirm the only keystroke that google can access are the ones submitted to its search query?

Apple only has one permission level for keyboards that send stuff over the network: full permission. There's no way to determine what exactly they send using apple's keyboard permissions API, and apple doesn't know what they send. They just know it's a keyboard that can send anything you type over the network, and warn you accordingly.

You have to either trust that google isn't flat-out lying, or try to MITM and analyze the traffic using something like wireshark, which would be difficult assuming it's properly encrypted.

You don't have to "allow full access" to use it as simply a swiping keyboard. It's a better keyboard than Swype, even with "full access" turned off.

I don't care about gifs or emojis. One of the only things I miss on iOS as an ~8-year user of Android is the swiping keyboard. This gets you that.

Additionally, I think the privacy of using this keyboard without "full access" is better than using the android builtin keyboard. Unless google is doing some side-channel attack (is this possible? seems harder than on android) to funnel your keystrokes out through some other google app on your phone which does have internet access, it's just a dumb keyboard.

Now, the sketchiness of guiding users to turn on "allow full access" by default... well. It would be paternalistic for me (as an armchair privacy enthusiast) to say "google shouldn't be encouraging the general population to divulge their keystrokes".

How is a keyboard going to not know what you type or look up things on the internet without having internet access?

Apple's third party keyboard message might be surprising, sure.

It should probably not surprise you that the authors of your keyboard software are theoretically capable of seeing what you type on your keyboard though, if you think about it.

You're typing into their keyboard. What do you expect?

It may be the only way, but I'm still concerned by this.

User @colinbartlett above says Google explicitly states what is sent, however. So am I right that it looks like we are trusting Google with what they say they are sending? I'm ok with that, I think.

>Get it now in the App Store in English in the U.S.

What a shame. I know plenty of people here in Poland who have their phone languages set to English for convenience. Let alone the English speakers in other English-speaking lands - I guess I can understand local English variants presenting a few minor issues, at least.

I can't use this yet (because it's region locked to the US grr), but can you turn off the search part? I really miss the android keyboard on iOS and swype/swiftkey are just similar enough that I find their quirks compared to it incredibly annoying.

No real interest in the search part, though.

Yes, it's disabled by default.

I tried to install it, but it's US only. Any idea why that would be? This seems like something that could easily be rolled out worldwide. Is it a language support issue? (i.e. in Canada, they would have to support the French keyboard).

I wish that Apple would still allow the force-touch trackpad feature on 3rd party keyboards. I've gotten so used to having it that it makes it difficult to consider using any other keyboard other than the stock one.

you could do that in the space bar

Very sleek and fast -- loving it! Was on Android for a number of years then went back to an iPhone and this was the #1 thing I missed.

For anyone interested, you do NOT need to "Allow full access" to use the general swiping feature of the keyboard. I think that permission is to allow the keyboard to collect data, do searches with it etc...

Personally, I don't feel comfortable with that option enabled despite the convenience of virtual keyboard based search. Very smart move by Google, though. Another door opens to get your eyes on those ads.

Couldn't they release it also in English in the rest of the world? :/

Surprised that no one has mentioned Slash keyboard which has been out much longer and has more features. They even won Product Hunt product of the year. They also have an Android app. http://tapslash.com/

I tried Slash and it's got some neat features, but I could never quite make the switch. I think a lot of my frustration with most third party keyboards is the autocorrect. The native iOS keyboard is kind of scary good at deciphering the shit I managed to punch in, and it seems like Gboard is just as good if not better (someone earlier said "implausibly good").

Every other keyboard I've tried I've started hating pretty immediately. Maybe it's Google's RDF at work, or maybe they just figured out how to leverage iOS autocorrect/suggestions a little better. Either way, I'm hooked.

And yes, I know that "good autocorrect" being my biggest complaint, maybe I could type more accurately. But honestly isn't this the point of AI?

Shameless plug

No affiliation to Slash. Just a user but surprised that a tech-savvy crowd here could've missed it.

I love that you can also slide on the spacebar to move the cursor left or right. I like that feature from Nintype, but Nintype is always not all that stable.

If this keyboard proves to be more stable than other slide keyboards (SwiftKey / TouchPal), then it stays!

Meet the new Google toolbar. GG Sundar Pichai

Woah, I forgot Google toolbar existed. What time to be alive - you'd go over to {insert technologically incompetent relative}'s house and each time there'd be a new toolbar installed.

Yeah, young enough to just barely recall it :) Anyways, this is again a nice strategy, or better call it data grab. (Although, I haven't use GBoard)

I just switched to Microsoft's Flow, but the search and emoji search caused me to switch to this. Very nice!

Interesting how they don't use Hangouts for iOS in the screenshots huh...

Not really. More iOS users, like myself, use iMessage 10X more than Hangouts. Actually since Telegram came out I haven't really used Hangouts at all.

That's amazing. However, what a big pity, I can't used it in China.

Here's hoping that Microsoft adds Cortana to SwiftKey, this looks pretty exciting, but I don't own an iPhone...and I don't particularly want to use Google services.

This seems far less buggy than SwiftKey. Sad as the prediction is SwiftKey is second to none but I have to choice reliability over all else

I really hope they incorporate Google Input Tools at some point. Most of the supported languages only have very poor iOS keyboards.

Anybody know the list of emoji autocomplete? Some things like taco works but boat doesn't.

Apple really is incapable of providing software this useful. Am I right?

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