Heads up Android keyboard aficionados — if your handset runs Android 4.0 or later and you’re just not thrilled with the keyboard you already have, you can now download Google’s stock keyboard app from the Google Play store.
According to a post on the official Android Google+ page, the app has launched in certain English-speaking markets with a wider rollout to follow shortly. But that’s not to say that people in those launch markets are restricted to pecking out missives in English. The app comes with libraries for 26 languages, as well as the ability to select next word suggestions and swipe across the keyboard to form words. In the event you haven’t played around with it yet, it’s really quite good — far better than what I’ve experienced in Samsung and HTC’s custom skins, anyway.
Yeah, fine, I know — who gets hot and bothered about keyboards? Well, quite a few people if the number of replacement keyboard apps in the Google Play store is any indication. Nearly every Android OEM under the sun feels the bizarre compulsion to fiddle with the keyboard as they make their (arguably unnecessary) changes to the Android experience, and the end results aren’t always what the end-user had in mind. It’s no surprise then that some people have been clamoring for a cleaner way to type, and developers have been eager to fill that gap.
So what does this mean for the countless replacement keyboards that have already carved out their niches in the Google Play Store? Well, it depends on who you’re concerned about — prominent developers like Swype and SwiftKey already have deals in place with device OEMs like Samsung (and last year the latter started to focus on the health-care market of all things) so they’ll almost certainly continue chugging along just fine.
The picture gets hazier when you consider the smaller players in the space — at least a few developers (like this guy, or this guy, or this guy) have been selling replacement keyboard apps that aim to replicate the stock typing experience on non-Nexus devices, and Google has basically just made them all obsolete. Those guys weren’t exactly raking in the downloads to start with, and it’s obviously in Google’s best interest not to alienate developers that have pledged allegiance to their mobile platform, but I suspect some of those smaller keyboard app creators may soon feel the pinch.
As a brief aside, feel free to tweet at Darrell (@drizzled) to tell him to clean out his notifications shade (seen above). It’s just shameful.