Apple(aapl) has allowed third-party keyboards in its mobile operating system since 2014, when it introduced iOS 8. These often offer functionality that is lacking in the stock iOS keyboard, such as the ability to type by dragging your finger between letters — first deployed by Swype.
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Google’s Android keyboard has long copied that particular feature and, according to The Verge, its iOS keyboard will do the same (if indeed it comes out).
However, the most important feature would be the inclusion of a Google-logo button that provides quick access to web searches, along with “distinct buttons for pictures and GIF searches, both presumably powered by Google image search.”
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Google’s business is obviously based on search, but mobile evolution has headed more into the realm of social discovery, where services such as Facebook(fb) and Twitter(twtr) suggest things for users to click on, based on what the user’s contacts are looking at and sharing.
Putting a search function front-and-center in this way might provide a way for Google to encourage a less passive mobile-usage experience. This would allow it to bolster its traditional source of ad revenue, which is under threat from those newer, more social rivals.
Google had not responded to a request for comment at the time of writing.