As an ex iOS user, one of the reasons that I like Android so much is the flexibility to customize so many aspects of it, such as the interface itself and the keyboard used for text input.
We’ve previously mentioned a couple of cool keyboard replacements for Android. This time around, it’s Google Keyboard, a competent keyboard that is a workhorse rather than a showhorse. It incorporates many of the innovations that we’ve seen in custom keyboards (gesture and voice typing, word prediction, autocorrection) into a single, FREE app.
I’m a big fan of text input with via gesture swiping, and honestly cannot think of going back to click-clicking each key individually on an on screen keyboard. As far as I am concerned, gesture swiping should become a standard feature on all touchscreen devices, as should both autocorrection and word prediction.
So how does Google Keyboard perform? Very well indeed. Aside from those features mentioned above (autocorrection, word prediction, gesture and voice typing); features on offer include: support for multiple languages/dictionaries, personal dictionary support, and even text expansion, where you can enter an abbreviation/shortcut and get a predefined word as one of the word prediction options (e.g. type ‘fwg’ and ‘freewaregenius’ can come up as an option, which you can set up as you please). This last one very useful for frequently typed emails.
The Verdict (a.k.a Should you install Google Keyboard?)
It depends. A lot of it’s features may already be supported by your current keyboard. Most phones have custom keyboards, so check to see what yours has on offer. Most recent Samsung phones, for example, already feature prediction and gesture input (although you have to enable it in the settings). So if that’s what you want, you may already have it.
However, the one thing that is truly impressive is voice input (launched right from the keyboard screen), which not only offers remarkable voice recognition, but is available for most every language on Earth. It’s not something that I previously knew I wanted, but after testing it, I know for a fact that I will probably be using it.
Google Keyboard ventures into territory that has hithterto been the mainstay of paid apps such as Swiftkey or Swype, (not free), and Kii Keyboard or TouchPal Keyboard (free, or offer free versions). I will admit that I feel sorry for these guys, because now that Google has entered the field they are probably all in danger. As a free app which is both competent and feature rich, Google Keyboard is a great way to get gesture typing on your phone if you want it (or want to try it). With competent voice recognition to boot, it may change the way you ‘type’ with your phone.
However, this article is not a comparison between Google Keyboard and, say, Swiftkey or Swype etc. Are there features that these apps provide that Google Keyboard does not? Please let us know in the comment section below.
Go to the Google Keyboard Page on Google Play to get it. Note that Google Keyboard is not available in all countries as we write this. If this is the case in your country, check out our guide to accessing the US app market from anywhere (be mindful of step #5).