Skip to main content

Google rolls out new update for its Phone app, introduces chat heads feature

Pixel 2
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

In the latest update for the Google Phone app, Google-supported phones will now have a “chat heads” feature, Android Police reports. Similar to Facebook Messenger, users will have a floating icon on their display with the assigned contact photo of the person they’re talking to.

The familiar feature originally appeared on Facebook Home back in 2013 — which was an app for Android that replaced the device’s existing home screen in order to allow you to post and view Facebook content more easily. With chat heads, you can interact with someone and also complete other tasks on your phone simultaneously.

While Google has been testing out the new feature for months, it’s now rolling out in version 17. When you’re on a call, chat heads will appear once you exit out of the call screen. You’ll then have the freedom to move it around anywhere on the display, and will still be able to see it even when you’re using other apps.

When you tap on the avatar, a menu will appear with a variety of options. You’ll be able to call, mute, put the call on speakerphone, or end it by only using the widget. There’s also the option to hide the bubble or end the call by dragging it down to the bottom of the screen.

For now, it seems there isn’t a setting in the Phone app to completely turn the setting off but Android Police did find a work-around. By going into your Settings on the app, and finding the list of apps that can “display on top of other apps,” you can disable that feature instead.

As part of its Android application package teardown, Android Police also found support for new Real-Time Text protocol for those who are hearing or speech-impaired. With RTT, each letter you type is transmitted to the other side of the call right away — which ultimately allows the recipient to conclude what you’re typing before the message is even complete.

But it’s unclear whether or not RTT will be included with version 17 or if it will possibly be live in the future. It’s possible it could be rolling out with partial support and will fully launch in an upcoming update.

The Google Phone app is only available for the Pixel, Nexus, and Android One devices — for now. You can download the app through the Google Play Store.

Editors' Recommendations

Brenda Stolyar
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Brenda became obsessed with technology after receiving her first Dell computer from her grandpa in the second grade. While…
5 Android camera features that I need to have on my iPhone
iPhone 14 Pro and Google Pixel 7 Pro.

One of my favorite things to do with my iPhone 14 Pro is to take photos. Whether it’s part of my attempt to be artsy by snapping spontaneous moments with my husband and daughter, or just capturing the magic at Disneyland, I have a ton of photos. Though I don’t have time to edit every single one, I do like to spend time making edits on my favorites just to improve how they look before I post them on social media. But the built-in tools on the iPhone for taking photos and editing them are, well, lacking.

I’ve been testing a few different Android devices since I joined Digital Trends, and let me tell you — it’s been a trip. I’ve discovered so many new photo and camera tools on various Android devices that just show how much Apple is behind in that regard, despite being one of the most popular devices for mobile photography.

Read more
Google Chrome is getting the Android tablet update you’ve been waiting for
Google Chrome app on s8 screen.

Google today announced the release of its redesign for the Chrome app on Android tablets. After long being neglected on the big screen, especially in comparison to Apple's or Samsung's browsers, Google says it'll be rebuilding the browser to help you get work done faster with a tablet or other large-screened device.

These updates can be broken down into design and functionality improvements, and we'll be kicking things off with the redesign. The first change adds a new side-by-side design when using Chrome paired with another app. This comes with an auto-scroll back feature so you can swipe between tabs, hiding the close buttons when your tabs are too small to prevent mis-taps — plus the inclusion of a restore feature.

Read more
Does the Google Pixel Watch have fall detection? Not yet, but it’s coming soon
Lifestyle image of a woman wearing a Google Pixel Watch.

Looking for a great Android smartwatch? The Google Pixel Watch is Google's response to the Apple Watch and the Samsung Galaxy Watch. With this new kid on the block, Google has inaugurated its own multi-device hardware-software ecosystem with many of the same critical health and safety features.

The Pixel Watch offers Google's software suite, which users can access via LTE or smartphone connection, and incorporates health resources from Fitbit's fitness line. The new watch, which runs Wear OS 3.5, is designed for optimal integration with the Google Pixel 7 and Google Pixel 7 Pro smartphones, which debuted alongside it.

Read more