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Google launches Android KitKat Keyboard alongside Hangouts SMS update

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Google has opened out its updated Hangouts and Keyboard apps to the Play Store masses following the Google Nexus 5 debut.

The company’s latest flagship Android smartphone shipped with the latest version of Google’s mobile OS, Android 4.4 KitKat, on October 31.

Part of that new OS is Google’s own updated suite of apps, which includes a new version of Hangouts and a new Keyboard. Now the equivalent stand-alone Google Play Store apps have been updated accordingly.

Version 2.0 of Hangouts is possibly the most interesting of the two, as it now includes the ability to serve as your SMS app. Besides the usual instant messaging, VoIP calls, video chats - and now animated GIFs - you can also send traditional text messages through the app.

If you’ve ever looked enviously at your iPhone-owning mates’ integrated iMessage app, then you’ll know more or less what to expect. All you need is an Android device that runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or later (which is most of you), and you too can update to this handy new version.

Google Keyboard has also been updated to version 2.0. The big new feature this time is "Space aware Gesture Typing," which sounds quite cosmic and mystical, but actually just means that you can type out long sentences without lifting your finger. Still, it’s pretty handy if you’ve taken to the whole swipe (or should that be Swype?) typing method.

Oh, and the other notable addition here is a new easy emoji entry system, but this will only work if your handset’s running on Android 4.4 KitKat. Which, unless you have a Nexus device, is unlikely to be the case for a good few months yet. Boo.

Both Hangouts 2.0 and Google Keyboard 2.0 are available for free download on the Google Play Store now.

Read More: Best Android phones to buy in 2013

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