It just might be, you know. Having spent a fair bit of time tapping into Swype and then SwiftKey, Gboard has now become the default keyboard on my Samsung Galaxy smartphone, and I’ll explain why.
Gboard review: best features
On the face of it, Gboard isn’t much different from the two main rivals mentioned above. It offers both finger-swiping entry and hunt-and-peck, it’s got a smorgasboard of emoji, and you can dictate text by voice.
However, there are a few features that elevate it above my previous favourite, SwiftKey. Gboard’s best feature is that it’s prepared to admit it’s wrong. I find SwiftKey’s stubbornness infuriating. You type a strange name and SwiftKey autocorrects it to a dictionary word. You go back, delete the word and start again, and SwiftKey wants to change it back to the word you just deleted once more.
Gboard is more intelligent. If you type a word that it wrongly autocorrects and then start deleting letters, Gboard returns the word to exactly how you typed it. This saves an enormous amount of faffing around. If the rest of the world was prepared to admit I was right in the first place, we’d all get along fabulously.
Other features that tickle me? There’s an integrated Google search bar in the keyboard. Not sure how to spell Schmeichel (as in Peter), Scherzinger (as in Nicole), Sheeran (as in the massive tit of a singer), or any other proper noun that’s not in the Gboard dictionary? Not a problem. You can do a quick Google search and have the results appear in the keyboard, without leaving the app you’re in at the time.
That big G button on the upper left of the keyboard hides other features too. You can search for GIFs within the keyboard, helping to make your tweets and Facebook posts even more annoying than they were already.
You can get an instant translation. So, if you’re a hugely irritating ginger pop star and want to thank your fans in Afrikaans, you can type “thank you” and have it instantly translated to “dankie” in your tweet.
If you’re the kind of 12-year-old who fills their output with emoji, you can also search for the symbol of your choice by drawing it. My pathetic attempt at a glum face returns several miserable emoji options in the results, as you can see below.
Gboard review: the bad bits
If I have one niggle with Gboard, it’s that it parrots my school reports: not a quick learner. I spend a fair wallop of my time tweeting the names of non-league footballers, but Gboard has been much slower to learn and suggest surnames of players than SwiftKey was. You can manually add words to Gboard’s dictionary, but I’d like it to be more proactive in adding words that I’ve entered multiple times myself.
That said, there is an option in settings to have Gboard suck up the names of your phone contacts to add to its autosuggest. That means handing over even more data to Google, but let’s be honest, that ship has already sailed. Even if your wife doesn’t know you’re having an affair with Julie in Accounts, Google does.
Gboard review: the verdict
After a fortnight of testing and running in Gboard, I’m not going back to SwiftKey. If you know of a better Android keyboard, I’d be happy to hear about in Comments (below). In the meantime, this is the best Android keyboard I’ve ever come across. And it’s free.
Main pic credit: d26b73 on Flickr
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