Cillian Bracken Conway
24th Mar, 2016

Google is set to release a keyboard for the iPhone, according to a report in The Verge. The third-party feature is designed to boost the number of searches made using iOS devices, particularly the iPhone.

The keyboard will feature a variety of search options and a number of search features that will make it stand out from stock iOS keyboard. It will be capable of predictive text, swiping/gesture-based typing, and access to traditional online search with just a tap of Google’s logo. It is also said to have specific buttons for GIF and picture searches, which are presumed to be powered by the search giant’s image search.

It is unclear when the keyboard will be released, but it has been under development for months, according to sources familiar with the project.

Apple has allowed its own keyboard to be replaced by third-party apps, following the release of iOS 8. Some of the existing options today are Swype and Swiftkey for the iPhone.

Not to be left-behind, Google has been developing a third-party keyboard for the iPhone, and has been internally testing it for months. The idea is to increase Google searches originating from iOS devices, as users on the whole don’t do mobile web searching as much as they do on desktop, according to a report.

The search giant has made search a core part of the keyboard experience.

The growing majority of apps has caused a drop in traditional search volume, and kept users away from Google Search, which used to be the primary choice of content discovery in mobile, and the main revenue driver of the search giant. Through the third-party keyboard, the company is hoping to bring users back to Google Search.

In a statement last year, Google said that more users in the US prefer to use their mobile devices than PCs when doing search. They also said that revenues are gaining steadily. Although the company dominates mobile search, as opposed to their rivals and its own desktop shares, the search function does not work on mobile as well as it does on the PC.

The search giant has done several things to make itself the centre of mobile user experience again through its multi-faceted mobile strategy. These included app indexing, AMP, predictive search, and conversational search, among others. The third-party keyboard is part of a larger strategy to boost mobile search engagement.

Google has made it a strategic priority to increase the number of searches coming from iOS devices.