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

Pixel 2
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.