Two of the many new apps and features to debut with the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4, KitKat, are now available for everyone. The new de-blued Google Keyboard and Hangouts with SMS integration are both live with updates in the Google Play store.
The new Google Keyboard doesn’t change much if you’ve been using the old one, but there are some welcome improvements. According to the official changelog, changes include:
- Rationalized punctuation across different sizes (4″,7″ and 10″).
- Inserted emoji entry point and layouts (KitKat or later).
- Simplified mini-keyboard on full stop long press (revised long-press menus).
- De-blued press states.
- Added space-aware gesture typing (you will not have to lift your finger while gesture typing – just go through the space bar).
Tested on a Galaxy Nexus using 4.3, there is an emoji entry option enabled by default now, but it’s terrible and not what you would expect. There are a handful of black and white symbols, and that’s it. So you’re going to have to wait for 4.4 for full support. Everything else works well enough, although space-aware gesture typing definitely needs some work.
The newest version of Hangouts in the Google Play store is actually updated from the version that debuted in the Nexus 5. Among some much needed bug smashes, the new Hangouts features:
- SMS and MMS (Android 4.0+): Send/receive text messages with Hangouts! You can import your existing messages, quickly switch between SMS and Hangouts, and start group MMS conversations.
- Animated GIFs: send animated GIFs, cute kittens and all.
- Location: share a location in your conversations.
- Device, in-call, mood status: share what device you’re on, whether you’re on a call or your current mood.
The new Hangouts seems to be pretty hit or miss at the moment. Those that have been able to install the update are reporting a lot of problems. We’ll have to report back once we can get the official update running on an older phone. Just keep in mind that when it is running perfectly, it will still take some getting used to. Give it a fair chance before you decide you hate it if you don’t like it at first.
If you’ve received either update on your device, we’re interested in hearing what you think. Sound off in the comments below.