It appears that Google is working on a third-party keyboard for iOS that would allow search functionality directly within the keyboard itself, according to The Verge.
Casey Newton reports that the keyboard will have swipe functionality, letting users run their finger from one letter to the next instead of tapping out each individual letter. Apple opened up third-party keyboards in June 2014 with the launch of iOS 8, but third-party keyboard-makers like Swype, SwiftKey and Fleksy have had trouble satisfying users in the long term.
But Google’s new keyboard is reported to go well beyond the basic typing function to provide search capabilities as well. Via a special search icon, users can do a direct Google search right within their Messages app (or any other app that uses the keyboard). This search extends to image and GIF search, which Newton assumes will be powered by Google’s own Image search, and not a third party like Giphy.
The reasoning behind this is pretty obvious.
Search is Google’s most lucrative and important business. With the introduction of mobile, Apple has become an intermediary between the user and the search results. In Safari, for example, Google can’t track your web usage the same way they can when you use Chrome on a desktop. Plus, users of iOS have the option to choose which search engine they’d like to use, with options for Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and DuckDuckGo.
And finally, people search less on their smartphones than they do on the web. Instead of typing Seamless or TechCrunch or Facebook into the Google Search bar, users can simply tap on the app that they want. The app ecosystem, while better for the user than the mobile web, has taken away Google’s place in the hierarchy of getting where you want to go digitally.
But it’s possible that this isn’t just a failsafe issue, but an offensive move. Messaging is the next frontier for advertising.
From Snapchat’s geofilters to Slack’s Giphy integration, the influx of media into our daily conversations will only grow. And that media is likely to be paid for by an advertiser. By providing search within our actual conversations, Google could not only stop the bleeding but get a transfusion.
That said, Newton isn’t sure whether Google will actually release the keyboard it’s allegedly spent months working on, and the company declined to comment.