It's not an exaggeration to say there are a multitude of Android keyboards out there. From Go Keyboard, to Swiftkey and Swype your choices are almost unlimited. But it used to be the case that if you wanted the Google "official" or stock keyboard, you'd have to hunt around for a version someone else had put on the store. Now things have changed, and Google has decided to make its own keyboard available to everyone.
This is cool, because the latest version of the keyboard has a lot of impressive features that are really worth having. It does also undermine the paid keyboard solutions on the Play Store though, as it offers much of the functionality of Swiftkey and Swype.
- Google Play
To look at, it all seems quite normal. It reminds us of the Samsung keyboard - although that's probably because Samsung based its Note II keyboard on the Google one. The one thing missing from it that the Note has on its standard keyboard is a row of numbers along the top. That won't affect users of other handsets, but it has to be said that we use these keys a fair bit.
What you do get is some pretty impressive text prediction. Typing normally and the gesture-based typing where you slide across all the letters to get your word both have word predictions, and the keyboard can also predict what word you might be interested in typing next.
There are two typing modes: use either the usual tap to type, which works well because of the decent-sized keys, or use the "gesture-based" swiping system, that works the same way as Swype and Swiftkey do.
But unlike Swiftkey, the phone and tablet versions are the same, and both are free. To get the tablet version of Swiftkey, you have to pay again. We've always found that a bit annoying. But this is a boon for people who hate their standard keyboard, and want something more lively.
And lively it is, because it's just about the slickest and quickest keyboard app we've used. Sliding your finger across letters brings up suggestions as you type, and this is always away from your "sliding" finger, so you can see what word the keyboard things you're going to type, and then stop when it guesses it.
There are loads of advanced settings too. You can opt to turn off gesture-based typing, or block naughty words from appearing in the predictive text - seriously. There are also options for additional add-on languages. And there are the usual options for switching of vibration and key sounds when you type.
Google Keyboard does require that you have a version of Android above 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). If you have, then get yourself a copy free from the Play store. We think you'll be very impressed indeed.