Over the last few months, Google has been slowly disintegrating major apps from the core Android OS and making them available on the Play Store. Even at I/O, Google updated Play Services to introduce leader boards, multiplayer gaming, new location APIs and features, cross syncing notifications across devices, and much more for all Android 2.3+ devices, without actually announcing a new OS update.
Today, Google has released the stock Google keyboard for all Ice Cream Sandwich or higher devices on the Play Store. The stock keyboard includes gesture typing that was only available to Android 4.2 devices until now. Other features of the stock keyboard include voice typing, next-word suggestions and current-word completions, and dictionaries for 26 languages.
By making the stock keyboard available on the Play Store, Google not only makes it much easier to update the keyboard without rolling out a whole new Android OS update, but also makes it available to millions of non-Nexus device owners. OEMs generally remove the stock keyboard from Google in favor of their own keyboard, and up until now, there was no easy way to install the stock keyboard on them. This also makes new OS updates from Google less important, and will definitely help in reducing Android fragmentation.
As of now, Google has made the keyboard available in major English speaking regions of the world only. Hopefully, they will add support for more languages to the keyboard and expand its availability over the coming months.