May 18th 2016

Why I Let Google See Everything I Type on my Phone

The warning on iOS keyboard apps says (paraphrased): "We will see everything you type into this keyboard, including passwords, credit card info, sensitive personal information and ideas we can steal."

That's why I don't install keyboard apps. That message is serious!

iOS Keyboard Warning

Credit: Macworld

However... I had to install Google's new keyboard app called Gboard.

Why? It's one of several steps Google has taken recently to start the move away from app stores and into something more modern and user-friendly.

Gboard, Spaces, and Instant Apps are all bets on app-like content in non-traditional places.

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Gboard adds Google search to an iOS keyboard, which means I can search for directions, menus, definitions or movie times directly within other apps. This is a very similar pattern to Facebook's bot API, except Google made it ubiquitous. Where Facebook is trying to hijack the OS with Messenger, Google is finding a solution from within the OS. This is big.

Google Gboard

Credit: Google

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Spaces has a similar pattern of taking Google-controlled experiences and integrating them into other apps. The idea is the same, because we're just seeing Google inside of (or on top of) other apps... Google can bypass app stores without losing reach.

Google Spaces

Credit: Luke Wroblewski

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Instant Apps are another take on the same concept. Instant Apps allow app developers to create their app in "modules" so that people can use parts of their app without installing the whole thing. For instance, if you click a link to buy something in a web browser, it can open part of the seller's shopping app to complete the transaction, even if the buyer doesn't have that app installed.

Android Instant Apps

Credit: Google

Those are the specific bets. In addition, Google is promoting progressive web apps with a new framework (that looks pretty awesome), and they're pushing things like AMP, which is to say they're pushing the website experience towards a faster and more accessible app-like experience.

I think this is all really awesome on Google's part. I respect Google, but I'm not a fanboy. This stuff makes me excited about Google for the first time in a while.

That's why I let them see everything I type. I want to arrive early to the future party.