Web browsers have introduced many conveniences and new ways of doing things that we may take for granted these days. Automatically filling up forms that we may have saved in browsers or even third-party apps is one such convenience that has become all but essential especially on mobile where typing is such a chore. Both iOS and Android have long had support for such autofill systems but, for the longest time, Android’s version felt one step short of being seamless. That’s finally getting fixed in Android 11 where you won’t have to reach up just to select the password or credit card info you want to be filled out.
The way autofill systems normally work, you have to select some choice in a dropdown or popup menu that appears in the text input field where such information needs to be filled out. That’s well and good on a desktop or laptop with keyboard and mouse but it definitely requires more movement, particularly taking your hand away from the virtual keyboard, when on mobile. That has exactly been the way Android has normally worked, at least for things like passwords, credit card information, shipping information, and the like.
In contrast, iOS solved this problem long ago by making the autofill suggestions appear right above the keyboard. This minimizes the distance your fingers have to travel from and to the keyboard. Android will finally adopt this convention in the next release of the platform, making it quicker and easier to quickly go through login and payment forms like a breeze.
Privacy and security-minded Android users might raise an eyebrow at this new feature, considering autofill information will eventually go through input method editors or IMEs, a.k.a., keyboards and their kin. Google assures that the suggestions are not actually seen by the IME until the user selects one of them, at which point it would be equivalent to having the user type out the information anyway.
The one catch to this new convenience is that it has to be supported both by the password manager app as well as the keyboard/IME. If either one doesn’t, Android will fall back to the old dropdown method. At the moment, only 1Password and Google’s own Gboard are ready for this new feature ahead of Android 11’s public launch.