Google might not have had any hardware to show off at MWC this year, but it’s sure been hard at work on its apps. Hot on the heels of updates to the Google app, Photos, and Keep this week, Google has also launched a beta program for Gboard, and the first update already brings some interesting new features.
In the 6.1 beta of the popular keyboard (its first significant update since finally launching on Android in December), Google has added a few cool features that should be coming to the full release shortly.
First up, they’ve taught the “G” button a new trick. Tap it and you’ll now see a new translate icon at the front, which lets you select the languages that you want to translate to and from. Then, when you enter a word or phrase into the text bar, the translated version will appear above the suggestions bar. You can select from a variety of languages, but Google warns you that translated phrases will be transmitted to Google for deciphering, just like they are over the web.
Additionally, there is a revamped theme selector in Gboard. It’s not necessarily a new feature—tapping the palette icon has always launch a customization screen that let you add a key border and underlay a color or image—but the interface has received a pretty major overhaul, with better organization, new images, and greater customization.
Elsewhere, you’ll find only minor changes. The dictation interface no longer takes over the whole keyboard, the text predictor has been expanded to include emojis, and there are some slight visual changes to the text box. To try out the new Gboard, you can sign up to be an official beta tester in the Play Store, but the listing notes that the program is currently full. However, you can always side-load the Google-signed APK from APK Mirror and still test out the features.
Just our type: It might have taken a little too long for Gboard to make its way to Android, but we love it all the same. Gboard is far and away our favorite keyboard, and these new features will only make it better. With Google search, GIFs, and now translation built tight into the keyboard, we’re certainly giving the app switcher a lot less exercise, and spending a lot less time looking for things and more time doing them.