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Google lets loose stock Android keyboard app with voice typing

Google has unveiled a new Keyboard app for Android, which brings gesture-based typing to company's mobile OS.

Keyboard, available now for free in the Google Play store, includes Gesture Typing, which lets users glide a finger over the keyboard to form a word, as well as auto correct and word predictions.

A Voice Typing option also allows users to compose notes on the go — tap the microphone icon for hands-free writing. Google Keyboard supports 26 languages and keyboard layouts for a dozen more, and provides what the company promised is a "fast, accurate, and reliable typing experience."

Keyboard features have actually been available on Google's Nexus devices for some time, but the app brings that functionality to phones and tablets running Android 4.0 and up.

"Android is an open platform, so you can customize your device to your liking," the company wrote in a Google+ post. "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."

Those rivals include Swype and SwiftKey. After a lengthy beta phase, Swype made its way to the Google Play store in April. SwiftKey, meanwhile, arrived on Android in February; check out our review here.

So far, Google's Keyboard app has received positive feedback from users, with an average 4.7-stars rating, and plenty of "Awesome!" and "Must have!" comments.

Android user Jim Scott is a fan, giving the app four stars, and writing that he would have awarded it a full five stars if not for the lack of emoticons. "Works really well otherwise though," he wrote in a review. "Would suggest anyone/everyone give it a try."

Not everyone is jumping on the Google Keyboard bandwagon, though. User Gary Devino slammed the app, giving it just one star, and explaining why he believes Swype is the superior application (hint: It includes arrow keys for easier navigation, and better access to symbols and special characters).