Let’s just admit it to ourselves here and now: The stock iOS keyboard is not that good. Microsoft recently tried to make typing more comfortable with its futuristic looking one-handed keyboard (and it was decent!). Now Google wants to improve just about everything else with the new Gboard. So we tried it out, and yeah, it’s great.
On the surface Gboard doesn’t look wildly different from the iOS keyboard, but the big sell here is having search inside the keyboard. That means being able to send a link or an address without having to leave the Messages app or fumble around trying to copy and paste. Search results appear as cards which you can add to your message with a single tap.
Search also extends to emoji, which is something we’ve needed for a long time. Terms aren’t fussy either, so finding the right emoji is intuitive. Some oddities to note:
- Most emoji don’t start meaningfully populating in search until you input two or three characters. A “most-used” default like iOS would be nice.
- Specificity doesn’t seem to matter to a point. “Red dress” is full of emojis which are mostly red, but mostly not dress-related.
- The only emoji that comes up for “hate” is the weird lemon-headed baby.
Gboard comes packed with a lot of other features—like gif and photo search and glide typing—that you’ll probably never use. And the overwhelming irony of being able to easily text and address to someone is that it will inevitably open that address in Apple Maps, when Google Maps would be markedly better. As an unexpected bonus though, text replacements you’ve added to your iPhone will show up in the predictive text section of Gboard (for instance, “qd” is set to “¯\_(ツ)_/¯” in my phone).
Because there are two places you can type in—one for texting and one for search— there will inevitably be mishaps where you’ll send the words “skateboarding dog reaction gif” to your friend instead of getting Google to fetch and send the actual thing. It might not be all the way there yet, but Gboard presents a better alternative to the stock iOS option.