Google may be looking to ensure its control of the world’s search market by building a gesture-based smartphone and tablet keyboard designed to work with Apple’s iPhone and iPad, which has integrated search functionality, according to sources speaking to the Verge.
According to the report, Google employees have been testing the new keyboard for several months already though the search giant has yet to decide when or if it will release the keyboard to Apple’s App Store. With the introduction of iOS 8 in 2014, Apple finally opened up its software to allow users install third-party keyboards to replace the stock iOS version.
Google’s keyboard, like the stock Android keyboard, allows for gesture typing, a feature that allows users to swipe their finger from one letter to the next allowing Google to then guess what word you want based on the shape of the gesture you have made.
As well as this gesture feature, Google is said to be integrating GIFs and images directly into the keyboard which would be powered by Google’s own image search. Finally, Google is also said to have built web search directly into the keyboard, accessible by tapping the Google icon. The company’s Android keyboard doesn’t have the image, GIF or search features, though you can do a voice search by tapping a microphone icon.
Google has not commented on the rumors so far. The company holds a virtual monopoly on the global search market and with consumers moving ever faster to mobile, it wants to make sure that its search ads — which generate the biggest revenue — remain relevant in a mobile world.
In January it was revealed that Microsoft was also seeking to take advantage of the popularity of iPhones and iPads when it announced it was testing its Word Flow keyboard for iOS. The keyboard would function similarly to Google’s keyboard as well as those launched by Nuance Communications’ Swype and TouchType’s SwiftKey for iOS. Instead of relying solely on a user’s input of individual letters, Microsoft’s Word Flow lets users drag their fingers across the keyboard to plug in words. It has invited beta testers to try out the keyboard before it launches on the App Store.