I’ve never really paid attention to third party keyboards until Google came up with Gboard. The virtual keyboard was initially released on Android, and then iOS on the US App Store. You can download it today from the South African app stores on both platforms, and as of August 2018, it has surpassed 1 billion downloads on Android.
Image credit: Shutterstock
While the keyboard isn’t new, today I’m going to highlight my top 5 reasons why you should make it your default keyboard on any platform (by any, I mean Android and iOS).
1. Know your permissions
This is a very important issue that’s why I’m starting off with it. Initially when it was released, Gboard needed access to things like SMS on Android but today, you can choose exactly what permissions you want to give it. On Android, mine is currently set to “no permissions allowed”, which means it cannot access my camera, contacts, location, SMS or storage, unless I change it. It’s also my default keyboard on iPhone, and I’ve made sure I know what it has access to. I’ve turned off contacts and location. Anonymous data is shared with Google but it’s not tied to your account. I’m happy with that.
2. Search emojis/gifs/stickers
Instead of scrolling and switching through apps to find the right emoji, gif or sticker, you can do it very easily from Gboard. Just type a keyword of what you’re looking for and it comes up. Especially when you’re looking for a flag, just type the country name. Same with gifs, it’s built into the keyboard! I repeat, it’s built into the keyboard. You can also scribble and send it over as an image on any messaging platform. Works really well if you want to send a birthday message to someone, to give a bit of a personalised touch. If also supports Bitmoji.
3. YouTube/Search/Maps are built in
If you’re having a conversation or want to tweet something, Google’s search function – including images, YouTube, Maps and Contacts (if you gave it permission), are all easily accessible from the keyboard. You can share articles, videos, images, locations – basically anything without leaving any app you’re in to fire up a web browser and do it. It’s so convenient; and saves time.
4. You can voice type
If you like the idea of voice notes but not the audio clip, good news. You can dictate ALL your messages, replies, tweets, etc and it will type it out for you. I mean, seriously. It even understands my accent, so it will definitely understand you. If you’re not already convinced, why you are still reading? Ha! Voice dictation does not appear to work for email though. Gboard also supports glide typing like the Swype keyboard, which is probably the fastest way to type. You glide your finger over the letters of the word and voilá, it’s there. It beats lifting your finger and typing each letter. Something for everyone.
5. It supports themes
If you’re into light or dark mode, want a landscape image or a photo from your gallery as your keyboard theme, you can make it so. Having an image as your theme can be a bit distracting, as you can see below. I’ve switched back to the default for now.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. I’m usually unashamedly taking food photos (@nafisaeats on IG).