The iPhone, iPad and iPod touch can use a variety of custom keyboards. This review examines Gboard for iOS.
Customization is a relatively new concept for iOS. While competing mobile operating systems focused on customization, Apple had other priorities. Apple focused on creating high performance APIs for graphics and multimedia. They also approached customization with care, in order to ensure security, privacy and performance. Customization features, such as the ability to use third-party virtual keyboards, didn’t come to Apple devices until the iOS 8 release. As with many new technologies, Apple approached customization cautiously and thoughtfully.
Apple’s Customization Efforts Have High Standards for Privacy, Performance and Security
Differing priorities were not the only reason why Apple held off on customization efforts. Customization requires the operating system to have the appropriate interfaces for third-party developers. These hooks into the operating system can also be opportunities for malicious developers.
In order to thwart malware and ensure privacy, Apple spent a lot of effort to do these things right. Extensions and custom keyboards have only recently arrived for Apple users. These technologies are secure, robust and offer exceptional performance. Users have the option to enable or disable full access for custom keyboards. We are warned that enabling full access can transmit sensitive data to third-party servers.
Gboard for iOS Is the Best Custom Keyboard
When iOS 8 first launched, I joined the masses of users who installed custom keyboards. Swype was by far the most popular keyboard, mainly because users could slide their finger across the screen to enter text. This makes one-handed typing on a smartphone much easier. Unfortunately, Swype isn’t that great. At the time of this writing, the popular custom keyboard only gets a 2 star rating in the App Store. Users consistently complain about unresolved bugs, such as the keyboard not launching in certain apps. Swype isn’t free either. At 99 cents, while inexpensive, it’s a lot to pay for a flawed custom keyboard.
After trying a few custom keyboards, I went back to the stock iOS keyboard. It just worked and I really didn’t find swiping that effective. I don’t really type a lot on my iPhone and I prefer to touch type on my iPad. I type much faster than I swipe.
A few years later, Google launched Gboard, their own custom keyboard for iOS. I didn’t rush to use it, but eventually installed it on my iPhone. Gboard takes a lot of the best features of existing custom keyboards and combines them into one entity. Google didn’t rush into the custom keyboard business, but instead took their time to make something great. The best thing is that Gboard is absolutely free.
Gboard Is Fast
For a custom keyboard to be useful, it must be fast. It should launch quickly anytime you are ready to enter text. I am currently using Gboard on an older iPhone 6, and the performance is quite impressive. There’s no lag when the keyboard pops up. Entering text, either by manual or glide typing, is fast and smooth. Predictive text options are displayed quickly. There’s no performance hit from using Gboard. It launches just as fast as the stock iOS keyboard.
Gboard Offers Integrated Google Search Capabilities
How many times have you been typing something and end up needing to search Google? This is a common necessity. I often need to look up facts when writing an article. If I am recommending a restaurant to a friend, I like to provide an address or link to their website. If you have a modern iPad, you can just swipe on the right side of the screen to launch Safari with Split View multitasking. This can’t be done on an iPhone. You have to launch the App switcher, open a browser, look up your information and return to your email client. It’s such a clumsy process, I sometimes don’t even bother. next page →