An iOS mystery: Where and when will Gboard not appear?

The fact that I own an Android phone has rarely been more obvious than when I use my iPad–and I try to “gesture type” as if I were using my smaller mobile device’s onscreen keyboard.

The arrival of iOS 8 and its support of third-party keyboards made tracing a path from letter to letter to enter text not just a pointless exercise but a possibility. And with iOS 9’s less buggy support, it’s become a less annoying possibility, but still not a sure thing.

Gboard app iconThat’s become clear to me since Google shipped its Gboard keyboard app in May and, after a satisfactory tryout, I made that free app the default keyboard on my iPad mini 4.

Most of the time, Gboard appears whenever I touch a text field. I can gesture-type with ease (except when I’m holding the tablet sideways), and I could season my prose with emojis and GIFs were I, you know, 20 years younger.

But Apple’s built-in keyboard keeps on surprising me by resurfacing on its own. To get a better sense of how often that happens, I tried taking notes on this behavior this week and reached three conclusions:

• The system works more often than I gave it credit for. The departures from the norm stick out, but keeping track of them made me realize how rare they are.

• In certain cases, the stock keyboard shows up because it’s supposed to. As an Apple tech-support note explains, iOS’s keyboard automatically takes over in secure data-entry fields like the password dialogs of the App Store and Amazon apps.

• In rare occasions, iOS does get confused about keyboards for no apparent reason. A tap of the address bar in Safari would sometimes invoke the stock keyboard instead of Gboard, while the Duolingo language-tutorial app proved itself capable of alternating between the iOS and Google keyboards in a single session.

It’s tempting to blame Apple, given the iffy quality of much of its software. But I can’t rule out this being Google’s fault. I mean, as good as Gboard is, I still had to do a copy-and-paste job from a Web site to enter the symbol that best captures my latest diagnosis of the situation:

 

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Advertisements

Dear Android gesture typing: Enough ashtray with this one autocomplete error

About 95 percent of the time, the “gesture typing” built into Android’s keyboard is one of my favorite parts of Google’s mobile operating system. I trace a fingertip over the letters of the word I have in mind, that item appears in an overlay before I’m halfway through inputting it, I lift my fingertip, and a Scrabble winner like “deoxyribonucleic” pops into a tweet, e-mail or note.

Ashtray forbiddenBut then I have to try to gesture-type the $10 word “already,” and Android will have other ideas. Specifically, cancerous ones: It keeps subbing in “ashtray.”

I could take some comfort in the privacy-preserving thought that Google’s sense of my interests is so off that it thinks I write about cigarettes all the time. (This post probably won’t help!) But, really, I only want to write a common adverb without having to tap keys one letter at a time, like some kind of an animal.

And because I’m in the same abusive relationship with autocorrect as everybody else, I keep hoping that this time, Android will finally realize I have no interest in tobacco products. That’s when it will humor me by inserting “airway” instead of “ashtray.”

I just don’t know what could lead Google to misread me so consistently. The path you trace to gesture-type “already” requires going significantly farther east on the keyboard than the route for “ashtray,” and Google’s own search results suggest the former word is used about 143 times more often than the latter. Who would see any upside from this pattern of error?

As I said, this is annoying because it’s so unusual. The only other common word that Android gesture typing botches halfway as often is “conference.” And there, it’s at least more creative: The software will sometimes choose to read my attempt to enter this noun for an occupational hazard of my job as me gesture-typing “cicatrice.” Yes, real word: It’s a Middle English-derived noun for tissue that forms over a wound and then becomes a scar.

One thing I do know about this mystery: If there’s a tech conference with “already” in its name, I may have to decline all of its invitations to preserve my own sanity.

Weekly output: Facebook Home, Android updates, Joe Rospars, social media, smartphone keyboards, smartphone sounds

Monday was about as bad of a start to the workweek as I care to imagine; things have been better since then.

D News Facebook Home review4/15/2013: Facebook Home: Social Network Engulfs Android, Discovery News

I reviewed Facebook’s add-on software layer, as seen on the HTC First phone. I did not like it much–how could a company that generally gets the importance of security ship an app that bypasses the entire screen-lock function on Android?

4/19/2013: Yes, Android Updates Are A Mess. What Do We Do About That?, Disruptive Competition Project

The ACLU wants the Federal Trade Commission to crack down on wireless carriers that ship Android security updates late or not at all. Would it help if the FTC made examples of one or two of the worst offenders?

4/19/2013: Joe Rospars fireside chat and “Social media: What’s the next big thing?” panel, Mid-Atlantic Marketing Summit

I helped kick off this one-day conference at Gannett’s Tysons Corner HQ with an onstage interview with Joe Rospars, chief digital strategist for the Obama campaign and co-founder of Blue State Digital (my schtick was to preface each question with one of the Obama campaign’s quirky e-mail subject headers, such as “Hey” or “We could risk losing everything”). That afternoon, I moderated a panel about upcoming shifts in social media with Vocus’s Brendon O’Donovan, New Media Strategies’ Gayle Weiswasser, the Pappas Group’s Lisa Byrne and Susan Ganeshan of newBrandAnalytics.

4/21/2013: Try these alternative keyboard options for your smartphone, USA Today

A reader’s seemingly simple question about physical versus virtual keyboards gave me an opportunity to cover the variety of keyboards available in Android; hearing a Samsung phone’s whistling alert in the Quiet Car on Amtrak reminded me of why it’s a good idea to change a phone’s ringtone and notification sounds from the defaults.

This week’s Sulia highlights: observing a brief outage for some Google accounts; notes on a minute or two of wearing Google Glass; my takeaways from an enlightening discussion about passwords and security; relating an apparently successful attempt to convince Google that “DCA” and “National Airport” are valid terms for the airport closest to D.C.