Gboard, Google’s attempt to further infiltrate your phone by way of a keyboard application, is rolling out an update this morning that will introduce a handful of new features, including GIF and emoji suggestions as you type, easier voice typing, Google Translate and more keyboard themes.
The latter option will allow you to personalize the keyboard by selecting from an expanded selection of new scenic views, says Google, which can be set as the keyboard’s backdrop via the app’s Settings. The company notes that additional styles will arrive more often going forward, as well.
Other platforms, including Apple, offer emoji suggestions as you type, but Gboard is today upping its game by offering suggested GIF searches in the suggestion strip, too. These GIFs also can be shared across other apps, including Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, Hangouts and Allo, which makes Gboard something of a stand-in for other popular GIF search apps, like Giphy.
Google Translate, however, is probably the best feature in the new release, as it will help you translate your texts into other languages right from the keyboard. To use this, you’ll tap the Translate icon in the quick-feature menu, then Google Translate will begin instantly translating words and phrases as you type. This will make it easier to communicate with those who speak different languages, without having to switch back and forth between the text interface and a translation app.
Some languages will likely work better than others here, thanks to a big update Google Translate recently received, which brought the Google Neural Machine Translation system (GNMT) to more languages across the Translate platform. This system takes advantage of deep neural networks to translate entire sentences — not just phrases — for greatly improved translations.
Voice typing also got a boost, with an updated interface that makes it easier to switch between text typing and voice.
And finally, tapping on the “G” icon in the suggestion strip will offer access to new search features, including web, GIF and emoji.
Gboard is a fairly popular application — in terms of third-party keyboard applications, that is. The category had its 15 minutes of fame when Apple opened up access to customizing your keyboard input with the rollout of iOS 8. But after a while, there were fewer launches of new keyboard apps as developers realized the market for these customizations was still fairly niche. Gboard, which launched last spring, was a bit of a late arrival to the space, but has held its ground as a top 50 “Utility” on iOS and top 50 “Tool” on Android.
The new version of Gboard is initially available only on Android, and is a free download from the Play Store.