Nov 07 AT 3:31 PM Dustin Earley 29 Comments

New Google Keyboard, Hangouts available now in Google Play


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.



Dustin Earley: Tech enthusiast; avid gamer; all around jolly guy.

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  • Clark Wimberly

    Does Hangouts work with my Google Voice number yet?

    • halo0

      No. No GV integration at all, yet.

    • Dustin Earley

      Not until 2014. *sad horn*

  • sandwich

    Dang their country restriction crap! It’s a friggin’ KEYBOARD for Pete’s sake! *grrr*

  • tmoore4075

    So the messages don’t merge? so lets say I have a thread from my wife in a chat/hangout and a text message. I’ll have two threads from the same person in there? Is that right? Not sure I’m a fan.

  • John

    Hmm. Updated… I dont see any SMS integration…

  • Jess Blanchard

    I hardly use SMS anymore. Mostly just Facebook chat and Hangouts with push notifications to my device.

    I should probably downgrade my text plan… Hrm.

    • tmoore4075

      You can downgrade text plans still? I was just under the assumption you had unlimited or none/pay as you go.

      • Jess Blanchard

        I have been with T-Mobile for so long that I have this weird grandfather plan that has the option to downgrade from unlimited to a certain number a month. I’m sure it would render some other thing void and result in a $150 one-time asshat fee, though. So I’ve never done it.

        • Adeling

          I don’t know why everyone isn’t on the monthly rolling 3 contract that I have: £13 per month for as unlimited data.

  • MrMrMan

    Here I am getting excited for nothing. I can’t even use this yet.

  • jenskristian

    Good to see the updated apps making their way to Google Play.

    • Steven

      But it updates the keyboard but you can’t use all the features unless you’re one of the 12 people with KitKat?

    • 16-bit

      Yes, its about time.

  • JQuest81

    I actually like the app. Better than the stock messenger on my S4. (it sucks that your Hangout and SMS appears in separate threads) Though it would be great if the next thing Google implemented a Chat Heads esque functionality! Or maybe I’m asking too much right now. Lol

  • djrealsatx

    I love the new hangouts app on my S4. I been using it for about a week now and I love using the emoji and have used it to replace my native sms app. Great job Google!

  • Billy

    Weird … Hangouts says it’s not compatible with my phone. (Moto X) .. maybe just a slow rollout. I will keep an eye out.

  • SGB101

    Sms feature doesn’t work in the UK update, it will let you text a ‘phone contact’ that had a g+ account, but if they don’t have g+ installed it just sends them a Gmail. If your phone contact don’t have a g+ account (or no g+ in for contact info) it just prompts you to send an invite.

    I thought in both cases it would just route the sms the Norma route over the phone network. And if your both on g+ with Hangout installed it would bypass the phone network and use Hangout. Ala imessage type arrangement.

    I’m I right in that thinking or an I way off?

  • rashad360

    I got really excited about the hangouts update finally being released, but alas, my g2x is stuck with gingerbread and cannot take advantage…

  • mvndaai

    I think they are doing a timed roll out with Hangouts, I am still on 1.2 and can’t update the app yet.

  • Dave Kratter

    I don’t understand why the Google keyboard doesn’t have the symbols on the middle row as a long-press option, like the AOSP keyboard does. That’s a dealbreaker for me. I do like that you can now swipe through the spacebar and continue on to the next word, which the AOSP keyboard does not support.

  • Steven

    I don’t use Hangouts & neither does anyone I text. Most use iPhone. How will this affect me.. Sounds confusing.

    There was another post here about SwiftKey update. I updated my Amazon version (it was free hence not the Play version), but I don’t see any of the keyboard settings mentioned. Just noticed the number keypad used to be on the left and suddenly switched to the right

    • RonD

      To see all of the options, you have to long press the 123 key (SwiftKey symbol). Then you can get the various options for type, size, unlock, setting, theme, etc.

  • loveit

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  • Gang

    Still haven’t gotten the Hangouts update on my Nexus 4. I even tried uninstalling and re-installing updates.

  • Tricia Dawn Williams

    I have android 4.3 on my galaxy s4 and hangouts 2.0 but the option to integrate sms is not in the settings. Is anyone else having this problem?

  • Joshua

    just use Kakao talk….still the best and probably always will be the way they integrated gift buying like sending qrcodes for Starbucks and limited edition emoji’s. Blows everything else out of the water!

  • enzodast

    I like it and I’m hoping it solves the group texting issues on android (I’ve been using Go SMS Pro for group messaging as I find it handles it the best but during high volume group chat my phone and the app can’t keep up with iphone users).

    The only issue I’m hanving with hangouts is the EXTREME lag time, messages (individual and group) don’t load for a very long time and when they do sending texts or MMS messages takes a very long time and often fails.

    Additionally inside the group chat only some users have their names next to text messages.

    The entire app has promise but needs speed and reliability overhaul.