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Pong and Snake Games Make Android Keyboards Fun

You're chatting with your bestie in a mobile messaging app, and the time it takes them to tap out a response is feeling positively glacial. You can either twiddle your thumbs while you wait for them to type a reply or leave the chat behind to attend to other matters. Or, if you've got Ginger's keyboard app installed on your Android device, you can pass the time with a nice game of Snake.

MORE: 5 Best Keyboard Apps for Android

The latest update to Ginger, which hits the Google Play Store today (March 31), adds a new Entertain section to the alternate keyboard. With the tap of an icon, Ginger replaces your keyboard with either games or a list of news headlines that will occupy your attention until it's time to start typing again.

Ginger's developer says the update was motivated by "focus groups and internal data analysis" that found much of the time we're spending in messaging apps is idle time. The idea is that your time could be put to better use without forcing you to jump into another app.

If you're wating too long for a reply in a messaging app like Hangouts, just play a quick game of 2048 on your Ginger keyboard app.

If you're wating too long for a reply in a messaging app like Hangouts, just play a quick game of 2048 on your Ginger keyboard app.


And so, when you tap a game controller icon on Ginger's keyboard, you have the option of passing your time with three casual games -- Snake, the Pong-like Squash or the 2048 numbered tile game.

Ginger also gives you the option of scanning news headlines as you're waiting to type.

Ginger also gives you the option of scanning news headlines as you're waiting to type.

If playing games doesn't quite fit your definition of keeping productive while waiting for a reply in a messaging app, you could always tap on the feed icon to get an assortment of news headlines. You can choose headlines from 13 categories ranging from technology to sports.

This isn't the first time Ginger has offered something other than just a keyboard with suggested words and swiping input. Last month, the keyboard introduced a Smart Bar feature that allowed you to use third party apps to perform actions like creating a calendar event or jotting down a note without having to close the keyboard. These features help the alternate keyboard stand out in a market where the likes of Swype and SwiftKey cast long shadows. 

Ginger says the Entertain feature will eventually make its way into the iOS version of its keyboard. "We are waiting for the general third-party keyboard support in iOS to mature," Ginger chief marketing officer Oded Lilos said via email. Apple only opened up iOS to third-party keyboards with iOS 8's release last fall.

The updated app is available from the Play Store. Just be sure you don't become so focused on besting your top Squash score that you forget to send that reply.

Follow Philip Michaels @PhilipMichaels. Follow Tom's Guide at @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.