Report: Google is developing a keyboard for iOS

by: Matthew BensonMarch 23, 2016
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Google’s relationship with Apple has been one of a seemingly love-hate variety. It’s hard to believe that the search giant’s name was not only invoked by Steve Jobs during the announcement of the original iPhone, but its then-CEO, Eric Schmidt, was brought on stage. The topic of course, was Google’s partnership with Apple to provide the backbone of the iPhone’s Maps app and search for Safari. Here is the clip in its full glory, including Schmidt’s creative coining of the term, AppleGoo:

In the years that followed, Steve Jobs threatened to go “thermonuclear” on Google, assumed to be half-based on the growing success of Mountain View’s then nascent Android OS, as well as the fact that Schmidt himself had been a member of Apple’s Executive Board whilst the iPhone was being developed. The situation went solidly sour after Apple formally unveiled its own internally-developed Maps app sans any support from Google. Of course, as some may remember, that decision resulted in a PR crisis that still haunts Cupertino today along with a high-profile exit.

These days however, Google has made app development for Apple iOS products a proper priority. Indeed the iPhone and iPad were quite quick to receive the most current redesign of Google Plus, for example. Now it seems Google is going to add a variant of its Android Keyboard to the mix as well, according to an exclusive story by The Verge. Says writer Casey Netwon:

Google has been developing a third-party keyboard for iOS that would put the company’s search engine in a highly used part of the interface, The Verge has learned. The keyboard, which incorporates a variety of search options, has been in development for months, according to people familiar with the matter. It’s unclear whether or when Google plans to release it. The company declined to comment.

The story goes on to say that while the Google keyboard will include gesture-based typing support (similar to what Swype introduced years ago) it will also include “distinct buttons for pictures and GIF searches, both presumably powered by Google image search.” Rounding out the virtual input method is a web search that can be activated by tapping the Google logo.

According to Newton, the keyboard has been “in circulation among employees for months, [and] is designed to boost the number of Google searches on iOS.”

Good for Google

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“Hey Siri, why do you use Bing for searches?”

Just this past week, a report came out indicating that Google earns a third of all the revenue from searches on the web, with the caveat being that there are threats looming. The profit picture becomes potentially more problematic when considering a calculation The Verge referenced in its post:

While the company all but holds a monopoly on the global search market, there’s evidence that mobile search is proving much less lucrative for Google than the desktop. Using publicly available numbers, journalist Charles Arthur argued in October that half of smartphone users perform zero searches per day. (Using the same math, Arthur said desktop users perform an average of 1.23 searches per day.)

It’s a fact that Apple has sought to make its voice assistant Siri as front-and-center as possible, with recent iOS updates even facilitating always-on listening functionality. Unfortunately for Google, the search engine used to return results is actually Microsoft’s Bing. This makes sense for obvious business-competitive reasons. It follows, however, that of those people who do search the web on an iOS device, they may be more inclined to speak the search, and less some tinkering is done, Google won’t get a dime from it.

Assuming Google Keyboard for iOS actually makes it to a formal release, even should it not be immensely popular, there would presumably be some tangible benefit from having it available for those who want it.

Wrap Up

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If the iPhone SE sells well – Tim Cook has suggested there are many customers who would buy it – it could be good for a Google keyboard.

While it’s entirely possible that the Google Keyboard may end up being scrapped – though hopefully at least some screen captures surface eventually – the very idea that Mountain View isn’t sitting still while the inquiry engine enterprise evolves definitely indicates that action is being taken to try and stay on top of things.

What about you? Assuming you use or have an iOS device, do you like the stock Apple keyboard? Would you – or someone you know – go gung-ho over an input method graced by the good of of Google? Drop a comment or two below and let everyone know!

  • khalidalomary

    Google needs to focus on its android keyboard, it slacks in its autopredict when compared to swiftkey

    • Guest

      I think the ios keyboard is one of the best out there. Maybe they can make one for Android. I currently use the stock LG keyboard.

  • Don’t have an iPhone, but for me a keyboard needs to have the best typing experience possible. For this reason I still recommend the Swiftkey keyboard to everyone and never the Google keyboard – even on Android. The same would apply to iOS unless Google can make some big improvements.

    • 3rd party keyboards still suck balls on iOS, their API is quite buggy for the moment.

      Have tried Swiftkey for a week and sometimes it kept switching to the default keyboard automatically for some reason, and some other little bugs which aren’t present on Android.

      • Alan Maris

        same happened to me but I figure it out in the end I will have to completely remove the ios software keyboard. Now my swift key experience is ok

    • abazigal

      It’s still the stock keyboard for me on an iPhone. The problem is that 3rd party keyboards are still extremely problematic on iOS. They tend to crash, or not appear at all. For example, I want to quick-reply to a message from my lock screen, and either the stock keyboard appears in place of Swiftkey or the keyboard doesn’t appear at all.

      In addition, Siri dictation and Force-touch trackpad are only available on the stock keyboard, which is a fairly strong incentive to stick with it (for the latest iPhones at least). Perhaps Google could link support to Google Now for a dictation alternative.

      It’s worse on an iPad because Apple added this extra row above the letters to add in shortcuts for copy and paste, and this appears on top of the swiftkey keyboard, resulting in less vertical screen space. So again, back to stock for me.

      I tried Swiftkey on my dad’s Android smartphone and am amazed by the fluidity of it. No issues whatsoever.

  • I love Google keyboard. I miss it since switching to an iPhone.

  • Manyci

    IMO everything is better, than the stock iPhone keyboard, so yes, this would be great for iPhone users. BUT with the iPad this isn’t the case. I think the best keyboard I used is the stock iPad keyboard, which is maybe quicker and more accurate, than any other keyboard out there.

    (I mean maybe for people who speak English SwiftKey is better, or any other swipe-based keyboard. Or even the voice typing is great for them both on iOS and Android. But for other languages (in my case Hungarian) they doesn’t work so well.)

  • vmxr

    i wouldn’t recommend google keyboard its not good compared to swiftkey keyboard

  • † Køld †

    Swiftkey <3