On Feb 19, 2019, the Bitcoin symbol (₿) was unveiled on the Gboard — a keyboard developed for iOS devices by Google.
Interestingly, the symbol has not yet been included on the native Android keyboard. Two plausible explanations emerge:
- It is a competitive move by Google against Apple.
- It is an experiment by Google using a competitor’s device before deploying the symbol on its own.
In any case, this may signify a minor adoption of Bitcoin (BTC) through increased linguistic usage of the symbol.
Bitcoin and the Dollar
The Bitcoin symbol is included as part of Unicode 10.0, released in June 2017. It has not yet been developed as an emoji.
The integration of the symbol for easy access on mainstream keyboards is only just beginning. Like the United States dollar symbol ($), the Bitcoin symbol is used to signify a number of bitcoins. For example, where $1 means one United States dollar, ₿1 means one bitcoin.
An important difference between the dollar and bitcoin regards their increments. The dollar is divided into cents while bitcoins are divided into satoshis. While there are 100 cents in one dollar, there 100,000,000 satoshis in a bitcoin. Thus, the smallest spendable increment of a dollar is $0.01 while the smallest spendable increment of a bitcoin is ₿0.000000001.
Google vs. Apple
Google offers a keyboard on the Apple App Store called Gboard. It offers features that the native iOS keyboard does not. These include a built-in Google search function, glide typing, and the bitcoin symbol as a Unicode character. Users can select this character alongside various fiat signs, including the dollar.
The bitcoin symbol has not been integrated into the native Google keyboard on Android phones. Google may have chosen to integrate the feature into the iOS Gboard in lieu of the Android Google keyboard for multiple reasons. Two seem most plausible:
1.) Competitive Market Differentiation
Features included in the Gboard seem to be included to encourage Apple users to switch from the native iOS keyboard to this Google alternative. The inclusion of new features like the Bitcoin symbol offer another method of competitive market differentiation.
In order to better compete with a native keyboard, Google may continue seeking new methods of differentiation within the Gboard. It seems reasonable to predict that this would be done in order to hopefully draw in new Apple users.
Google may also be performing an experiment. It may have introduced the Bitcoin symbol on the Gboard to figure out whether or not it is feasible to include the feature on the Android keyboard.
There may be costs associated with some inclusion, and the change could be met with resistance. By integrating the feature on a competitor’s device first, Google may be able to learn whether or not there are merits to integrating the feature on Android.
— Tim₿o Copeland (@Timccopeland) February 19, 2019
A Minor Example of Bitcoin’s Mainstream Penetration
Mass adoption of Bitcoin will occur when bitcoins are regularly used within general society as a currency. Such adoption may not infiltrate every sector of society. Some businesses may never accept bitcoins as payment. At the same time, some individuals may never use the currency to buy goods or services from a merchant.
However, individual buyers, as well as businesses and various other merchants, can aid mass adoption without using the currency. If they discuss the currency with others, even negatively, adoption is occurring.
Mass adoption will not occur through the active usage of the currency alone. It will also require linguistic usage within general society. These will include using the term “bitcoin” in general conversation and using the Bitcoin symbol when writing in real life or on digital devices. Until people talk about Bitcoin as if it were a normal part of society, its usage will likely never be normalized.
The inclusion of the Bitcoin symbol on keyboards that are used by mainstream audiences may increase linguistic usage of bitcoin. Such increases might qualify as minor adoptions for multiple reasons. First, it might make discussing bitcoins easier. After all, inputting one character into a message rather than typing out a whole word may make talking about bitcoin as currency simpler than ever.
Furthermore, the symbol may bring attention to bitcoins as currency, not just as a store of value or speculative investment. Instead of writing “one bitcoin” people may write, “₿1.” This not only simplifies the discussion, but it also enhances the image of bitcoins as units of legitimate currency — like the dollar.There seems little reason to include the bitcoin symbol on the Google keyboard for iOS unless bitcoins had been adopted into society to a sufficient degree that would warrant the inclusion. Click To Tweet
If this inclusion is not classifiable as a minor adoption, it still seems to suggest that adoption is occurring. There seems little reason to include the bitcoin symbol on the Gboard unless bitcoins had been adopted into society to a sufficient degree that would warrant the inclusion.
Do you think the inclusion of the Bitcoin (BTC) symbol on the Gboard is a minor adoption of bitcoins? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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