Microsoft-owned mobile keyboard company SwiftKey is today rolling out a search feature for Android users that lets them browse the internet for content directly from within the keyboard.
SwiftKey is a popular keyboard app for smartphones that enables users to type more quickly on touchscreens — it learns individual writing styles over time to serve up predictive “next word” suggestions, and you can also swipe across the keys with your finger rather than hitting individual buttons.
Microsoft acquired SwiftKey for a reported $250 million nearly three years ago.
Search and ye shall find
As you would perhaps expect, the new search function is powered by Microsoft’s own search engine, Bing. The update seems to be mostly about enabling users to share content they find on the web without having to switch between multiple apps on their phone.
For example, you can search for local restaurants inside SwiftKey and give friends recommendations by screenshotting, cropping, and sharing the results.
Or let’s say a friend sends a message asking you to look into some flight options for an upcoming trip. Rather than switching from WhatsApp to Google or SkyScanner, you can simply bring up the little toolbar at the top of the keyboard, enter your flight criteria, and share what you find through WhatsApp without leaving the service.
The web search box is also clever enough to spot a URL, so if you type in a specific web address it will take you directly to that website.
“By having Search right there in the keyboard, users can browse for information and share it with their contacts without leaving the conversation, whether that’s for quick fact-finding, checking the local weather, or sharing news headlines and images in a message,” said SwiftKey product manager Colleen Hall.
This is similar to Google’s own Gboard keyboard app, which also lets you glean and share content from the web, though of course it uses Google. The latest update comes just a couple of months after SwiftKey rolled out a new real-time translation tool in more than 60 languages, which followed a similar update to Google’s Gboard app last year.
SwiftKey wouldn’t confirm whether in-app web search would be coming to the iOS app, but those on Android can use the feature from today in 11 markets: the U.S., U.K., India, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Canada, Australia, Japan, and Brazil.