All About the Gboard Keyboard for Android and iOS

A look at the Google keyboard's key features including integrated search

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When it comes to mobile, Google lives in two worlds. The company works with manufacturers to create Android smartphones, such as the Pixel, runs its operating system on millions of third-party devices, and maintains the operating system and an ecosystem of Android apps. However, it also invests quite a lot of resources into building Google apps for iOS, including Google Maps and Google Docs. When it comes to Gboard, Google's keyboard app, the company released the iOS app months before the Android version.

While the two keyboards have similar features, there are a few minor differences.

For Android users, Gboard replaces Google Keyboard. If you already have the Google Keyboard on your Android device, you just need to update that app to get Gboard. Otherwise, you can download it from the Google Play Store: it's called Gboard – the Google Keyboard (by Google Inc., of course). In the Apple App Store, it's called, descriptively, Gboard — a new keyboard from Google.

For Android

The Gboard takes the best features that the Google Keyboard offered, such as one-handed mode and Glide typing, and adds some new great ones. While the Google Keyboard had only two themes (dark and light), the Gboard offers 18 options in a variety of colors; you can also upload your image, which is cool. You can also choose whether to have a border around the keys, whether or not to display a number row and designate a keyboard height using a slider.

For quick access to search, you can display a G button on the top left of the keyboard. The button enables you to search Google directly from any app and then paste the results into the text field in a messaging app. For example, you could search for nearby restaurants or movie times and send them directly to a friend when you're making plans.

The Gboard also has predictive search, which suggests queries as you type. You can also insert GIFs into your conversations.

Other settings include keypress sounds and volume and vibration and strength and enabling a popup of the letter you've typed after a keypress. This feature can be helpful to confirm that you've hit the right key, but it could also present a privacy concern when typing in a password, for instance. You can also choose to access the symbol keyboard using a long press and even set up a long press delay, so you don't do it by accident.

For glide typing, you can show a gesture trail, which can be helpful or distract depending on your preference. You can also enable some gesture commands, including deleting words by sliding left from the delete key and moving the cursor by sliding across the space bar.

If you use multiple languages, the Gboard lets you switch languages (it supports over 120) while you're typing with the press of a key, after you've selected your preferred languages. Don’t need that feature? You can use that same key to access emojis instead. There's also an option to show recently used emojis in suggestion strip of the symbols keyboard. For voice typing, you can also opt to display a voice input key.

There are also numerous autocorrect options, including an option to block suggestions of offensive words, suggest names from your Contacts and make personalized suggestions based on your activity in Google apps. You can also have Gboard automatically capitalize the first word of a sentence and suggest a possible next word. Better yet, you can also sync learned words across different devices, so you use your lingo without fear of an awkward autocorrect. Of course, you can also disable this feature entirely, since this convenience means giving up some privacy since Google can access your data.

For iOS

The iOS version of Gboard has most of the same features with a few exceptions, namely voice typing since it doesn't have Siri support.

Otherwise, it includes GIF and emoji support, integrated Google search, and Glide typing. If you enable predictive search or text correction, Google does not store that on its servers; only locally on your device. You can also allow the keyboard to view your contacts so it can suggest names as you type. 

One issue you may run into when using Gboard on iOS is that it may not always work correctly because Apple's third-party keyboard support is less than smooth. According to an editor at BGR.com, while Apple's keyboard performs consistently well, third-party keyboards often experience lag and other glitches. Also, sometimes your iPhone will switch back to Apple's default keyboard, and you have to dig into your settings to switch back.

Changing Your Default Keyboard

All in all, it's worth trying out Gboard for Android or iOS, especially if you like glide typing, one-handed mode, and integrated search. If you like Gboard, be sure to make it your default keyboard. To do so in Android, go into settings, then language and input in the personal section, then tap on default keyboard, and select Gboard from the options. On iOS, go into settings, tap on General, then Keyboards. Depending on your device, you either then tap on Edit and tap and drag Gboard to the top of the list or launch the keyboard, tap on the globe symbol, and select Gboard from the list. Unfortunately, you may have to do this more than once, since sometimes your device will "forget" that Gboard is your default. On both platforms, you can download multiple keyboards and switch between them at will.