The keyboard for the Gboard software that Google develops for Android (and iOS) is getting a significant update to improve the typing experience on foldable devices — and it suggests that the Google Pixel Fold is getting closer and closer to release.
As detailed in reddit (opens in new tab) (through Android Center (opens in new tab)), the new interface mode shifts half the keys to the left of the screen and the other half to the right. This means the keys are in a more natural position relative to your thumbs as you hold a larger, foldable device with both hands.
However, you need to be running the beta version (opens in new tab) from Gboard for Android to get the feature right now, and you may need to wait before Google flips the switch and activates the split keyboard option on your specific device.
make the divisions
You’ll know you have the new feature when you see a split keyboard icon above the row of numbers in the Gboard interface, just to the right of the settings gear icon. Tap this to switch between normal layout and split layout.
It’s worth noting that Samsung’s standard keyboard on foldables like the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 already offers this layout option. However, some users prefer to use Google’s own Gboard as their preferred Android keyboard.
It’s currently unclear how long it will take for the feature to progress from the beta version of Gboard to the default app. It’s also not included in the iOS version yet – because we’re still waiting for a foldable iPhone.
Analysis: software after hardware
While we don’t have confirmation that a Google Pixel Fold is on the way, there are plenty of signs that it’s in the works, and this Gboard update is the latest. That means Google’s own Android keyboard will be ready when the foldable smartphone is finally revealed.
With Android 12L and Android 13, Google continued to make several improvements for devices with larger screens, including foldable ones. Many of the updates involve the software’s interface: how apps look and work on a screen that can be split in two, and how elements like the status bar adapt.
In other words, Google is laying the groundwork for the software before releasing its own foldable hardware, which is the right way to do it. The appeal of a foldable Pixel phone will be seriously diminished if the software is buggy and not properly tuned to support the different form factor.
There have been rumors that the Pixel Fold will launch later this year, perhaps around October, so it would make sense that Google would be putting the pieces of software in place. However, it could be delayed to 2023.