But it was missing one glaring feature that iOS’ own keyboard has offered for years: voice transcription. Not anymore!
Google shipped an update to Gboard this morning that brings voice-based typing along with support for a bunch of new languages (bumping the total up to 15) and support for the new emoji found in iOS 10.
To activate the voice typing — after you’ve made sure to update, of course — just hold down the microphone icon on the space bar for a second or two and then release. A new screen (actually built into the parent Gboard app that you otherwise pretty much never see after install) will slide in with a pulsing microphone. Say what you’ve got to say and Google will transcribe accordingly, then it’ll dump your words back into the last text field you were in.
It’s a little bit more wonky than iOS’ own implementation, but it gets the job done. It’s really a pretty clever work around: Apple doesn’t let third party keyboards access the microphone, but third party applications — including the one that acts as the “parent” of a third party keyboard (giving it a homescreen icon and thus making it easily deletable) — can. So Gboard (the keyboard) dumps you into Gboard (the app) for voice recognition, then sends the results back as keyboard input in whatever app you’re using.