Gboard's latest update is out, but the changes are pretty sparse. Outside of a few wording changes and surely some bug fixes, there's not much for users to see. In fact, most of these updates include a plethora of new languages, keyboards for specific geographic regions, or other similar customizations, but even those aren't to be found in this update. However, a teardown does turn up one upcoming addition in the form of a new keyboard dedicated to useful symbols.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.
Gboard supports practically every alphabet, letter, number, and punctuation you can think of, but there's actually quite a bit more that can be described as "plain text" that can't be found in Gboard, or at least not very easily. Newly added lines point to the addition of a keyboard dedicated to symbols, particularly those that aren't usually found on a physical keyboard.
A few category names were added, including: arrows, brackets, mathematics, numbers, shapes, and general. It's possible this keyboard will be a more convenient grouping of the related emoji, but I suspect they are what many people commonly refer to as "alt codes" — basically, the OG emoji. More precisely, these are a set of symbols adopted into the Unicode standard that aren't linked to any particular language. They're great if you want to illustrate something like directions (↑ ↓ → ←) and weather (☀ ☁ ☂ ☃), or cheat on a math test (⅀⨍≂⊟).
<string name="rich_symbol_keyboard_persist_states_pref_key">rich_symbol_keyboard_subcategory_selected</string><string name="symbol_arrow_content_desc">Arrows</string>
<meta-data android:name="module:com.google.android.apps.inputmethod.libs.expression.extension.RichSymbolExtension" android:resource="@xml/extension_rich_symbol" />
When this new symbols keyboard goes live, it will likely appear as one of the tab buttons at the bottom of what is already referred to as the symbols keyboard, or at least that's what it's called under Settings -> Preferences -> Show emojis in symbols keyboard. Although, given the close relationship to all of the math symbols, I would like to see a shortcut from the number keyboards to also reach this.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.