Google is moving to provide a more consistent Android experience across multiple form factors, ODMs and wireless carriers by releasing the stock Android keyboard as a standalone app on Google Play, likely ripped out of Android 4.2 "Jelly Bean".
Google is reportedly pulling out key Android components from the core platform so that the company can update the OS across multiple form factors without having to wait on handset and tablet makers, and wireless carriers. It also provides Android customers with a choice: stick with the OEM-based version, or install a more Android-native feature baked fresh in Google's oven.
"Android is an open platform, so you can customize your device to your liking; choosing your own keyboard is just one example of what’s possible – and there are a lot of great keyboards to choose from on Google Play."
Google Keyboard features Gesture Typing, allowing users to glide through letters to form a word – lift the finger to enter a space. It also provides automatic error correction, word predictions, Voice Tapping for on-the-go messaging, dictionaries for 26 languages, and keyboard layouts for a dozen more. Currently it's only offered for "English-speaking locals", but more countries will be added soon.
After installing the "app", users are directed to the "Language & Input" section in "Settings" to check "Google Keyboard" as the default input source, and then as the active text-input method. That's it. To reverse the process, head back into the same section to choose a different keyboard (it was Android keyboard AOSP on the DROID RAZR HD).
The launch of Google's stock keyboard arrives after SVP for Android and Chrome Sundar Pichai called for a more consistent experience across all Android devices while still enabling ODMs to add their own experiences as well. Google wants to see a level of commonality so that users can move from one Android device to another without having to learn an entirely new "platform".
"We want to set ourselves up to be consistent, to update across all these devices and to have a common user experience across these devices," he said, referring to tablets, smartphones, wearable devices and more that are powered by Google's mobile platform.
To get Google's keyboard, head over to Google Play here. Currently it's only compatible with Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" and higher.
I know it's a lot of work but I also know Google has the resources to make it possible. Hopefully those users on older devices have options for custom ROMs that can bump them up to v4.0+.
I do agree with the first comment that features of 4.x should be propagated down to Eclair and GingerBread. My phone was stuck on Gingerbread for more than a year due to instabilities that were not fixed until 4.1.2
I do like the new android keyboard; but its not a perfect fit for everyone.