It's update Wednesday, and you know what that means. Well, yeah... updates. I guess it's sort of in the name. But at any rate, lately that specifically means material themes are coming to all your favorite Google apps. Today the new version of Google Keyboard is available to all in the Play Store. Or rather, it will be soon. You don't have to wait for it to reach your account, though.
Yesterday we reported on the appearance of several redesigned emoji in the keyboard Google's rolling out with Android 5.0. In the piece, I concentrated on the improved consistency brought in by the tweaks. As it turns out, there was one more change hidden in plain sight among the others, and its importance shadows all others. Google has quietly addressed a bug report that has lingered for years.
Let's take a look at the issue at hand here.
In Android 5.0, the default keyboard looks substantially different from how it has looked largely since the days of Ice Cream Sandwich. The new out-of-the-box method of typing comes with a flatter theme that supplies a stark new feel. At the end of the day, though, it's still used primary to punch in letters onto the screen, and there's nothing particularly exciting to share there. One change we would like to highlight though is the addition of new emoji.
The Google Keyboard isn't one of the flashier apps out there, but it has proven to be an important tool for many people all over the world. The latest update brings better organization to the settings screen and adds support for 8 additional languages including: Bengali (India), Hindi (Compact), Kannada (India), Malayalam (India), Marathi (India), Tamil (India), Tamil (Singapore), and Telugu (India).
Left: Old settings screen, Center: New settings screen.
The new Google keyboard in Android L brings the Material Design aesthetic to text input, but the APK pulled from L doesn't work quite right on other Android builds. It actually breaks the keyboard for most devices. No worries, though. An XDA user has tweaked it to work correctly on (probably) all Android 4.0 and higher devices. There is one method that requires root (it's actually a ZIP file) and one that might not work on all devices that's an APK.
Google's default Android keyboard has typically emphasized simplicity over anything else, but it has picked up quite a few new nice features over the years. It now offers Swype-style gesture support out of the box, and after the latest update, you can choose what color your swipe trail and accent colors should be.
Following the Android 4.4 redesign, the Google Keyboard defaults to a subdued black and white color palette.
Have you noticed that sometimes your Nexus 5 reverts to the old Ice Cream Sandwich-style pop-up for voice dictation in some apps, as opposed to the less disruptive "endless dictation" on-the-keyboard style? You're not alone. Our fearless leader Artem found that his N5's microphone icon was missing from the default keyboard, and using contextual mic icons (in search boxes and other places) caused the aforesaid behavior. It was also affecting third-party keyboards like SwiftKey.
An updated version of Google Keyboard has made its way into the Play Store, taking most of the previously Nexus 5-exclusive features and expanding them out to other devices. We've covered the improvements in-depth before (and provided an APK), but in short, the swiping trail is now white, emoji are built-in, and users can swipe multiple words without having to lift up their finger. Unfortunately, some features still require KitKat, such as full-color emoji.