Google continued an Android strategy this week to decouple core apps from the base software by releasing the native Android keyboard in the Google Play store. The company began breaking out apps from Android in 2010, making it easier for all phones to run the same core Google applications and services; there’s no need for users to wait for a major software release to get some improved experiences.
The free app is available for Android 4.0 or better devices and has seen more between 500,000 and 1 million downloads in just three days. While each hardware maker typically creates their own software keyboard — and there are also many good third-party keyboards — I generally stick with Google’s. This gives me the same typing experience and key layout regardless of what Android phone or tablet I’m using. Fans of Swype will be happy because the native keyboard supports typing with gestures.
I also prefer the native, or stock, Android experience without a manufacturer skin. If you do too, you might be interested in the new “Google Experience” phones that start selling June 26 on Google Play. The Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One will go on sale with a pure version of Android that Google will directly update; just like its own Nexus devices.
The Sony Xperia Z is expected to round out the “Google Experience” offerings according to multiple reports this past week. The phone offers a similar display to its peers — a 5-inch, 1080p screen — and uses a quad-core processor paired with 2 GB of memory. Sony hasn’t officially announced this edition so there’s no price yet. However, the very similar Xperia ZL costs $639 direct from Sony, so I anticipate a similar price point.
Owners of the Galaxy S 4 should also be anticipating a software update in the very near future. Samsung released one in Germany for the handset which adds a few new features but also offers a workaround for the low amount of user accessible storage in the 16 GB model.
You can certainly expand the storage capacity with a microSD card but Google removed the ability to store apps on external storage some time ago. I’ve installed single games that gobble up nearly 1.5 GB of storage, so that 9.15 GB can go away quickly.
With the new software, Samsung enables support for application installs on the memory card, which should appease storage concerns.Also included in the software update is support for HDR video, updated camera firmware, a toggle switch for the Smart Pause feature and a semi-transparent Status Bar. Samsung hasn’t announced release dates for other regions, so stay tuned or check your phone for availability.