Multitasking is a huge headache in mobile. Something as simple as texting the address of a bar to someone you’re meeting can require traversing three different screens and half a dozen taps. Google’s new iOS keyboard, Gboard, is providing an alternative, by integrating Google’s search services right into every app’s text entry fields.
Upon installing Gboard, the first thing you’ll notice is it doesn’t really look or feel all that different from the default iOS keyboard. The biggest difference is that it adds a rainbow-colored Google search button to the left of the iOS autocorrect bar. But that button is absurdly powerful. Hit it while you’re typing and you can search your contacts, for web links, for directions, for restaurants and stores, for images, even for animated GIFs–all of which can be pasted in with just a tap. The idea is that instead of constantly having to switch apps to find information you need and paste it in, you can use the Google keyboard as a sort of multi-tasking command center.
Google isn’t the first company to figure out that the keyboard is the best place in mobile to inject itself and serve as a connection between a smartphone’s apps and services. Microsoft tried something like this on Android earlier this year, and other keyboards like Reboard have also made a play to solve mobile’s multitasking problem on iOS. Gboard also isn’t perfect. You can’t log in to your Google account through the keyboard, so you don’t have the ability to add an appointment to your Google Calendar anywhere, for example, or display Google Now’s contextual cards.
Even still, Google has devoted more than a decade to becoming the connective tissue of the web. So the brute power of a Google search button on every screen in IOS can’t be overstated. It obviates the need to use any other keyboard on the operating system–and a fair few of Apple’s own services, like Maps or Siri, depending on the context. Texting–far and away the most popular feature on smartphones–becomes simpler. And after just a couple minutes using Gboard, that rainbow “G” button on every screen seems like the most natural thing in the world.