I do not know when you’ve seen, however I have been considering an terrible lot about Android keyboards this week. I might even go so far as to say they have been dominating my brainwaves for the previous a number of days. (Sure, I actually am that cool. Attempt to include your admiration.)
And you realize what? Devoting all this psychological vitality to the simple-seeming topic of tapping out textual content on a cellphone has made me understand one thing: We — each the collective “we” representing us, the exceptionally good and enticing earthlings who use and revel in Android-based mobile telephones, and the broader “we” representing mobile-tech observers normally — have come to take as a right simply how unbelievable the Android keyboard expertise actually is.
As I mused in Tuesday’s column, most of us not often to by no means actively suppose in regards to the keyboard-powering app on our cellular gadgets — and in some ways, that is truly factor. Similar to with efficient interface design, when one thing works properly, you should not give it some thought. That is how you realize it is working.
However as we speak, I wish to break that rule for a minute — as a result of we have definitely devoted loads of brainpower as of late to considering by means of the methods Google is lacking the mark with regards to Android design and growth. So for as soon as, I might prefer to take a couple of minutes to speak about an space the place El Googley-oo is totally getting it proper — particularly because it’s an space that tends to be underappreciated on all sides of the mobile-tech spectrum.
The fact, as I’ve famous earlier than, is that the app powering the keyboard in your cellphone is arguably an important piece of software program you employ. Irrespective of how wonderful your e-mail app or workplace suite or note-taking doojigger could also be, an unexceptional keyboard will maintain you again and maintain you from getting as a lot as you might out of these utilities. In the case of productiveness and effectivity, the system that lets you enter textual content in your cellphone is entrance and middle and demanding to the effectiveness of virtually each a part of your phone-using expertise.
And if you wish to be reminded of simply how efficient our present Android keyboard choices are, all you have gotta do is decide up an iPhone and attempt to sort on it for a pair minutes. It is nearly surprising to spend a while truly utilizing Apple’s oft-praised, magical and revolutionary iOS keyboard after being accustomed to the unsung Android typing association. Fairly truthfully, it seems like stepping again in time to an earlier, much less superior period of smartphone typing know-how.
Now, do not get me mistaken: The iOS keyboard is definitely nice, particularly if it is the one typing expertise you realize. I imply, it will get the job carried out, and loads of folks use it — the huge, overwhelming majority of iPhone-totin’ people and/or walruses, if I needed to wager a guess. However every part about it’s noticeably much less highly effective, environment friendly, and thoughtfully introduced than what we see and take as a right on the Android facet — nearly comically so. And upon getting that perspective, the distinction is unimaginable to disregard.
Easy issues like having the ability to see numbers, punctuation, and particular characters for easy entry within the main keyboard view are unusually absent. Extra superior prospects like having the ability to float your keyboard round on a bigger display, having the ability to entry your clipboard for fast pasting of latest or pinned objects, and having the ability to set off real-time translation as you sort are equally lacking in motion. Even the silly-seeming however generally helpful process of having the ability to seek for and insert GIFs from throughout the keyboard is not often potential in that setting.
To Apple’s credit, its default iOS keyboard experience has come a long way over the past several years. The company added the long-missing ability to type by swiping just under a year and a half ago, and it started supporting third-party keyboard apps in 2014 — though those apps have generally been seen as second-class citizens, without full system support and with a range of reported issues revolving around consistency and reliability. Even if you do get Gboard up and running on an iPhone, the typing experience on it is nowhere near as advanced or complete as what you get with the full Gboard setup on Android, presumably due to the differing framework in Apple’s universe.
I point all of this out less for the mere sport of Apple-bashing (entertaining as that pastime can be) and more to remind ourselves how outstanding the typing experience is on Android — not only with Gboard, either, but with any of the more noteworthy Android keyboard options. The positives are in part because of the default keyboard Google created but also because of the foundation Google built within Android and the way it grants you the power to find any keyboard you like and have it act as a fully featured first-class citizen.
For all the time we spend picking nits and thinking through things Google could be doing better, it’s important to remember the critical, experience-defining areas where Android absolutely gets it right. And lemme tell ya, after spending weeks getting intimately familiar with practically every smartphone typing scenario imaginable, I can say with zero uncertainty that we’ve got it pretty darn good — so good, in fact, that we don’t typically have to stop and think about it. We can just go about our days and know, even if only subconsciously, that we’re maxing out on efficiency and having a hassle-free, truly exceptional mobile text input experience.
Sign up for my weekly newsletter to get more practical tips, personal recommendations, and plain-English perspective on the news that matters.
[Android Intelligence videos at Computerworld]
Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.