An APK teardown of the newest beta version of Google's Gboard keyboard app, courtesy of 9to5 Google, shows a number of new features like custom stickers called "Minis", a floating mode, and a number of other changes. Most of the features were close enough to finalized that the team was able to change around a few small lines of code in the files and enable these features. Spell check, a new app icon, floating mode, Minis, a battery-saving dark theme, and a popup asking the user to rate the app in the Play Store can all be enabled in this version, which means that they'll likely be rolling out to the public very soon.
The battery saver mode is one of the simplest of the new features, and it just allows the app to automatically set a dark theme when the device is in battery saver mode, which will provide significant screen usage savings for those with OLED and AMOLED devices. Spell Check is another easy feature that could save a lot of heartache, and it gives users the option to have suspected incorrect words highlighted instead of potentially falling victim to the whimsy of autocorrect. Code for a floating keyboard is also intact, but right now, the mode only seems to mimic the current one-handed setup by letting users move the keyboard around mostly as they please and putting a gray background where it used to be. A floating mode may clear that all up, and possibly free users up to move the keyboard wherever they want in any part of the screen. Finally, Minis are probably the biggest user-facing change found in this APK. The feature lets the app scan your face and generate a cartoon character, which is then turned into a custom sticker set by assembling pieces of premade art assets that consist of different facial and hair features. If this feature sounds familiar, it should be; it's a major feature of Google's Allo chat app, and now it's seemingly coming to Gboard, allowing its use throughout the OS.
On the non-user side of things, there's a bit of evidence that Google is rolling out a new Material Theme for the keyboard, much like the new Material Design 2.0, officially known as Material Theme Engine. Some of the app's code also points to an anonymized and aggregated form of machine learning called federated learning, something that Google has already confirmed as being in Gboard. All in all, this large suite of changes bring some stiff competition to peers like Fleksy and Facemoji.