3 things Android’s keyboard needs to fix
Shortcuts, web addresses, and emoji support. Small, but crucial, and making life better for every thumb.
You do a lot of typing on your phone. Even the most modern and swipe-y of apps can bring up the keyboard, if you need to search or share something. So the tiniest of keyboard improvements and niceties could go a long way.
Android has the advantage of allowing third-party keyboards, but the majority of users stick with the keyboard they are given. I wish the standard Android keyboard, and the lightly modified version installed by some Android phone makers, had these features:
Short text expansion
Not everybody wants to come across as a Starbucks-addled teenager when they communicate on their phone, but it’s also laborious to type out social phrases over and over again. “See you soon,” “On my way,” and so on. On the iPhone, phrase shortcuts are built into the Settings. Type “omw” and tap the space bar, and the suggested completion (“On my way”) fills in for your three-letter shortcut. Tap into General > Keyboard > Add New Shortcut, and throw your own phrase together (“wpnt” > “I will post as soon as I nail down a topic, dear editor”).
Automatically recognize .com, .org, and so on
This one is small, and somewhat easily fixed, but it’s remarkable that an internet-focused phone, built by a web-obsessed company, makes you type out Dot-C-O-M every time you’re filling out a URL. If you’re searching on Google, you’ll usually get an auto-complete suggestion with the right address. But if you’re sending someone a link, or typing it in elsewhere, you’re typing it out, and fighting the auto-correct dictionary that thinks you’re just being goofy.
Especially with Android’s new swipe-to-type keyboard in Android 4.2 (“Gesture Typing”), it feels awkward to switch back to tap-tap-tap, letter-by-letter typing whenever you’re writing about something on the internet. You can add “.com” and the like to your personal dictionary, but it should be there already.
Built-in support for more Emoji
Emoji are a bit weird, at first glance. Then you get a few emoji texts from a friend, or you see them on a forum or chat client, and you start to see the value of expressing “fire,” “person with blonde hair,” and “face with look of triumph” in your mobile communications. Apple’s iOS devices support many pages’ worth of emoji. Android, just recently, in newer versions, only supports a very small handful of emoji. When your iOS friend tries to message you with emoji, it looks like the image at the top of this post.
This isn’t just Android and Google that need to get their emoji game tight. Apple’s devices don’t use the same shortcodes and conventions that many web tools utilize, and vice-versa. It would be hard to codify emoji, as they are naturally silly, fun, and resistant to ranking and categorization. But it would be really nice.