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Android keyboard now stands alone

Google releases the default keyboard in Android 4.0 and above as a standalone app.

Google Keyboard is the default Android 4.0 and above keyboard, available as an app.

It may not be a Swype or a SwiftKey killer yet, but the Google Keyboard is now available as a downloadable app.

A post Wednesday on Google+ touted the Google Play Store debut of the app, which offers "Gesture Typing" so that you can drag your finger from one letter to the next to spell words.

Google Keyboard offers some interesting competition for other swipe-to-write keyboards. Most notably, it's free where most of its competitors are not. It also has next-word suggestions, auto-complete, voice recognition, and support for 26 languages, although the keyboard itself is English-only for now.

On the other hand, it's only available on Android 4.0 and above. While adoption of Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean continues to improve, currently at around 60 percent of Android devices, over a third of active Android phones still run Gingerbread.

However, Google downplayed the competitive angle in its anonymously-written blog post, noting that SwiftKey and TouchPal are "some of our other favorites". If anything, by making the keyboard available as an app Google is competing not with other keyboard makers but with companies like Samsung and HTC that alter the stock Android experience.