In March we reported that: Google is working on a virtual Gboard split screen keyboard for larger and foldable screens. At the time, the giveaway was a toggle on a Gboard beta (version 11.5.05.427194903) that had a very interesting description, saying “Split layout to include duplicate keys that can be toggled on or off.” Now there is a development in this story – a few screenshots of the alleged split Gboard keyboard have been posted online by the Twitter user @RKBDI† Looking at the screenshots it looks like Google uses the conventional approach of sliding the keyboard into two symmetrical halves, duplicating some letters (as mentioned in the previous leak).
Gboard split keyboard
The concept of a split virtual keyboard is not new, by no means. Samsung and Microsoft have both used the split option in their keyboard apps at some point, and while there are some minor differences (Samsung splits the space bar into two halves, while in Gboard it’s one piece), the idea remains the same. .
There is no information about a possible rollout or anything official. It’s safe to say this option will be available from the dot menu in the Gboard app (you can see the button below the menu in one of the screenshots), but at the moment there are no users with that functionality enabled, even not in beta.
Targeted to tablets and foldable tablets
Anyone who tried to type on a virtual keyboard in landscape mode would know how difficult this task could get. This difficulty grows exponentially with the size of the screen, and in reality you just can’t hold a 10-inch tablet and type with both hands without some serious hand gymnastics (if at all).
The case with the foldable devices is a bit odd, as even the big guns like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 aren’t wide enough to cause problems, landscape mode or otherwise. Splitting the keyboard onto the two folding halves might make sense, though, as users could be typing on a partially folded device (for whatever reason).
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Google Pixel Fold tips?
Another far-fetched conclusion from this leak could be that Google is preparing software support for its upcoming foldable device – the Pixel Fold. Yesterday the news came that the company has canceled the device for the second time and the alleged reason is that the phone is just not good enough for an official launch.
Another leak about this came earlier this month from the renowned display industry analyst Ross Young from the DSCC research shop. According to Young, the Pixel Fold could be a much more compact foldable – more similar to the Oppo Find N, instead of going the Galaxy Fold route.
If so, the news about Gboard’s split keyboard probably isn’t tied to the Pixel Fold and the new software feature will primarily serve tablets running Android.
Back to the Gboard! It will be interesting to see if there is a need for such a feature. Have you ever used a split virtual keyboard on a large screen device? How was the experience? Type your thoughts in the comments below (on your regular or split keyboard).
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