Whether on Android or iOS, you likely already use Google Maps for navigation. You use Gmail for email. You use YouTube to watch videos. And you’re right to do so. You’d be even more right to ditch whatever junk keyboard your smartphone shipped with for Gboard, another Google staple that works like a dream.
Lots of Android devices—including the Pixel line of premium phones—already use Gboard by default. It's been widely available to download for a year and a half. But if you have an iPhone, or a Samsung Galaxy, or anything else that doesn’t live up to the high quality swipe-type experience that your fingers deserve, it’s time for an upgrade.
But my keyboard’s fine, you say, which, maybe, sure. But since when did you settle for fine? Fine is an ice cream sundae with no sprinkles. It’s a movie trailer without that bwoooom sound. And it’s a smartphone keyboard that doesn’t let you search for just the right emoji by drawing it.
Yes, that’s right. With Gboard, you can draw a cat on your screen to view all the cat-related emoji. You can draw a house to view all the building emoji. You can draw the letters ‘O’ and ‘K’ to view the OK emoji, if for whatever reason you don’t want just write OK in your text. And that’s just one of its parlor tricks.
Gboard contains too many other useful features to tick off every single one, but the shortcut to understanding the scope of its powers is the knowledge that it has Google built right in. That means you can search the entirety of the internet directly from your keyboard. You can translate words and phrases in real time from any app that allows typing. It supports voice-to-text in dozens of languages. It’s a pro-grade multitool in a world full of butter knives.
It has GIF search built right in. In fact, as of last week, on iOS it even has a functional GIF creator built in. It’s true! You can make a GIF. From your keyboard. Any time you want.
It offers more than just search-related benefits though. Gboard includes thoughtful touches aplenty. A double tap of the space bar automatically adds a period to the previous sentence. You can gently slide back and forth along that same space bar to position your cursor. And One-handed mode lets you shrink and position the keyboard to wherever your stubby fingers feel most at ease.
Sure, you can tap delete to vanish one letter. But if you swipe the same key a little to the left, you can delete a whole word. Swipe it a little more, and you’ve vanquished an entire sentence at once. Magic! Or at least: Convenience!
This all might not sounds like much in isolation. And other smartphone keyboards offer some of the features. But the joy of Gboard is the totality. It does it all, and it does it well, and it’s free. And that’s before you get to the actual swiping and autocompletion, a software keyboard’s two most important functions. Gboard executes them both as well as anything else out there.
Obligatory caveat: Yes, Gboard is also yet another way for Google to insinuate itself into your life, particularly if you own an iPhone. If it helps, Google says it doesn’t record keystrokes, other than when you’re using the search—where it needs that access to actually perform the search. And MacWorld confirmed that Gboard behaved as advertised back when it launched.
To minimize the amount that Google can glean from your Gboard experience even further, you can open the app, head to Settings > Advanced and toggle off both Share snippets and Share usage statistics. And if you’re worried about security more generally, well, at least take some comfort in the knowledge that Google has far more security resources at its disposal than other third-party keyboard developers do.
In fact, it has more resources in general. That’s how it can keep adding all those fun features, and offer them for free.
Which really, at that point, why not give it a try? You can download it from the Play Store here, and the App Store here. After you’ve grabbed it, on Android just go to Settings > Languages and input > Keyboard and select Gboard. On iOS, go to Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards, and drag Gboard to the top of the list.
If you hate it? Delete it! But you won’t. You’ll be too busy drawing up just the right emoji.
After you've upgraded your keyboard, check out all the other ways you can customize and Android smartphone just how you like it
On iOS? While you're in settings, take a few minutes to get your privacy and security situation straightened out
Of course, smartphones like the Pixel 2 come with Gboard installed as the default, saving you the hassle
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