Since Apple enabled third-party keyboards on iOS a couple of years back, it has been disappointment after disappointment. However, Google changed all that when it released its new Gboard app for iOS back in May.
Unfortunately, the app’s initial debut was restricted to the US as well as being iOS-only. The Android version is apparently still in the works, but we’ve got good news today – Gboard is now live in the UK (as well as Australia, from what we understand).
We spent the morning playing with it on our phones – who doesn’t need an excuse to text on a Friday? – and absolutely love it.
Here are six reasons you will too.
1) Get information directly from Google
So, aside from all the bells and whistles, the key purpose of this app is to end the hassle of switching between apps to find, copy and paste information. Tapping the G button in Gboard allows you to search for, say, an address, phone number, business, Wikipedia page or anything in between.
Just tapping the card beneath the search field allows you to paste it into a message. As Google says, it’s like having search within any app that requires you to use the keyboard. Need an address for your Uber driver? No problem. Want to send a web link in an email? Simple. Looking for an image from last night’s big match to text to a friend. It’s all right there within Gboard.
2) Plan a restaurant visit
Perhaps the best use case for the Gboard app is the ability to plan a restaurant meeting with a friend through a messaging app. Provided location services are enabled, you can tap the G icon, type ‘restaurants near me’ and see a handful of options within that locale.
Within the card will be a name, star rating, address, contact information, directions and reviews. A couple of taps and this can be pasted into a message, information card and all. If it’s a place you’re familiar with, you can search directly and send all of the relevant information to a friend who has never visited before.
3) Add animated GIFs
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a well chosen, situational animated GIF trumps any emoji. You can search Google Images’ vast archive for the perfect image using the G button and then selecting GIF from the bottom of the screen.
Another way to access it is to hit the emoji icon before selecting GIF. This will bring up suggestions for commonly used topics like Yes, No, Shrug, Cheers, Mic Drop and more. There’s loads of them. Just tap and paste the image to post it within the message field. This means you don’t have to switch to a different app like Giphy in order to find your GIF of choice.
4) Faster access to emoji
It can be quite laborious searching for an emoji within the iOS keyboard, but Gboard helps by enabling text search for emoji. For example, typing in the word ‘cry’ narrows it down to all applicable results, enabling users to just tap and select. Also, ‘suggested emoji’ will also appear in the predictive word field as you’re typing.
5) Share contacts quickly
Head into the Gboard app’s ‘Search Settings’ and you can also open up access to your phone’s contacts. Just tap the G button and begin typing the name to see suggestions, which will appear in cards below the search field. This is handy if you just want to forward details quickly without leaving the messaging app to find, copy and paste from the Contacts app.
Related: The best iOS 9.3 features
6) Glide Typing
There’s no shortage of third-party keyboard apps that have freed us from the tyranny of tap, tap, tappy tap on every single letter. Google’s Glide Typing is an elegant solution that works just as you can expect. It can be turned on and off in the Settings.
7) Better auto-correct
It’s not that the stock iOS keyboard app has dreadful auto-correct, it’s just that…Gboard’s is better. In fact, it’s the first thing we noticed when we started thumbing away on our phones today. Adding search power to texting is the real game changer, but smarter auto-correct is the unsung hero of Gboard and will spare you many a blush, as well as a fair bit of time fixing all your blunders.
Are you a fan of Google’s new iOS keyboards or are there better options out there? Let us know in the comments below.