Hey everyone I'm using Gboard...aaaand there goes half of you lining up to exit out the third floor window — because ... well, the letter "G", and Google, and privacy, the targeted ads, and the rest of the hand-wringing all the way down. But, Gboard — Google's new keyboard for iOS with integrated search — is good, like, really good, and I think worth trying for the other half of you not considering seppuku even if conceptually (and let's face it — on paper too) the tandem of "Google" and "third-party keyboard" somehow sounds worse than vaping titan arum ("the corpse flower") e-juice.
Regardless of your feelings on Google, looking at Gboard as just a keyboard with a search button doesn't quite get to how useful that pairing actually is — nor how well executed both aspects are. To begin a search just tap the "G" button, then type your search term. Results are offered as a horizontally scrolling row of cards at the bottom of the keyboard, just tap your desired result to add it to your composition. The same tap simultaneously copies an image of the card to your clipboard — which you can then paste into your composition if desired. What's nice here is how considered it all is:
- Search for terms, addresses, videos (YouTube), flight times, the weather, stocks, translations, etc.
- Tapping a result adds the hyperlinked text to your composition, neatly formatted — even prefixed with a relevant emoji.
- Tapping also adds the image of the more visually appealing but not hyperlinked search result card to your clipboard, which can then be pasted into your composition.
- Each result includes a link out to Safari, for further exploration if desired.
Even better, search results can be filtered via web results, image results, and soak this in for a second — GIFs. That's right, just type your desired GIF and Gboard provides the GIF answer, or well... sort of does. Sometimes. Still, it's fairly reliable and far easier than swapping apps or switching to a different keyboard for just a GIF.
But Gboard isn't just about search, it's also a keyboard and a very good one at that. I find its word prediction to be very on point, and the handling of emoji suggestions for relevant words, word replacement, auto-spacing, and double tap for caps lock — all of it just feels right. Another plus for me, Gboard is fantastic at swipe typing (or "Glide Typing" in Gboard-speak). This is how I'm using Gboard day-to-day, and I don't think I've ever been more proficient at typing on the iPhone — it's very forgiving, super-smart, and you can back out of incorrectly guessed words with just a backspace — good stuff. One more thing: emojis are built right into Gboard, and they're searchable. Search for "bird" and you'll get 🐦, 🕊, and 🖕. Perfect.
As nice as all that is, using Gboard isn't without its grievances — though to be fair to Google — some of them are more inherent to iOS and its handling (or lack there of) of third-party keyboards than to the app itself.
- Gboard, like all third-party keyboards, can't access Siri dictation (the device microphone), which is obviously a huge accessibility issue for some and a major (in)convenience for others.
- Gboard can't input into password and other secure text fields — a slight, but understandable disruption in user experience.
- Gboard occasionally hangs when using Spotlight Search, a glitch in the matrix it seems with all third-party keyboards (though anecdotally this happens less frequently now than with previous iterations of iOS).
- Gboard doesn't offer the brilliant 3D Touch trackpad feature that the iOS keyboard does on the iPhone 6s/6s Plus — as a workaround Gboard instead allows for cursor placement by sliding across the space bar — a nice, but not equal solution.
- Search result cards can be frustratingly "cropped" just shy of the tidbit of info you want.
- Punctuation while "Glide" typing can be a real pain-in-the-ass for anything other than a period.
- Gboard and Google's preference for their system font (Roboto) over Apple's (San Francisco) makes a tiny part of me deep inside curl into the fetal position and sob "why?".
- Gboard on the iPad is distinctly less satisfying than on the iPhone.
- Gboard oddly doesn't do math. I hope that changes in a future update.
- Of course there's no dark mode.
- Gboard (for the moment) is available in the U.S. only
Finally, in case you'd forgotten — this is Google, this is a keyboard, it does require full access — and what about my privacy? Let's just say that Google seems...sensitive to your concerns. This is what they say about your privacy on Gboard's app description:
We know the things you type on your phone are personal, so we’ve designed Gboard to keep your private information private.
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.
For me, Gboard's pros have far outweighed its cons — the surprising usefulness, synergy even, of having search integrated within a keyboard that in many respects feels superior to the iOS keyboard has been too good to walk away from. I'm typing faster, more accurately. I've got GIFs and emoji at my fingertips. And I've got the power of search to look up conversation details or add to them — all of it as reliable, more reliable actually, than any other third-party keyboard I've used. I get there's those lingering privacy concerns with anything Google, especially when you swear you can just make out the word "keylogger" being blared through an Alphorn and echoing across the mountaintops of Switzerland. If that leaves you with an uneasy feeling — even after reading Google's disclaimer — move on. As for the rest of you, hold your nose if you must, but honestly give Gboard a go. Fair warning though— I think you'll like it.
Gboard requires iOS 9.0 or later and is compatible with the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Gboard is a universal app.