Android 10’s Live Caption is coming to phone calls. Here’s how to use it

Android 10‘s Live Caption was one of the headline announcements of that version of Android — and now, Google is expanding them to also work with phone calls. If you’re deaf, have some hearing loss, or maybe just want to watch video without the sound, then live captioning could be a feature that you’re excited about.

It’s already capable, even without this upcoming feature. Live Caption can automatically caption any video, podcast, or audio message on your phone. It even works with videos or audio files you’ve recorded yourself. You don’t need to have an internet connection for this to work, and it doesn’t send any data to Google — everything is handled locally on the phone.

The good news is that it’s available now, but you do need to have the right phone for it to work.

Devices that support Live Caption now

So far, the list of supported devices is fairly short:

  • Google Pixel 4a
  • Google Pixel 4
  • Google Pixel 4 XL
  • Google Pixel 3a
  • Google Pixel 3a XL
  • Google Pixel 3
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
  • Google Pixel 2
  • Google Pixel 2 XL

Is it just available on Pixel phones?

At the moment, yes. However, Google has said, “We’re working closely with other Android phone manufacturers to make it more widely available in the coming year,” so hopefully the list of supported devices will grow soon. However, it may be that we won’t see wide inclusion of this feature until devices start updating to Android 11.

How to turn on Live Captions in Android 10

If you have a supported phone, here’s how to turn on Live Caption. We used a Pixel 4 for this guide.

  1. Find the video, podcast, or other content that you want to caption and start playing it.
  2. Press the volume up or down button.
  3. You’ll see a caption icon below the volume controls, simply tap it and a Live Caption box will appear on the screen. If you don’t see the icon, go to Settings > Sound > Live Caption and make sure Live Caption in volume control is toggled on.
  4. You can tap and drag the caption box anywhere you like on screen.
  5. To turn it off, tap volume up or down again and tap that caption icon.

For anyone that prefers to have Live Caption on all the time, go to Settings > Sound > Live Caption and toggle Live Caption at the top on. That way you’ll get live captions every time speech is detected.

If it’s the first time you’ve used Live Caption, then you’ll see a message that states, “Live Caption detects speech in media and automatically generates captions. When media is playing, this feature uses additional battery. All audio and captions are processed on the device and never stored or sent to Google. Currently available in English only.”

Live Captions is coming to phone calls

In case you missed the announcement during the launch of the Pixel 4a, Live Captions is also coming to phone calls and will be available on every phone with existing Live Caption support. You might not see it now, but we expect its debut very soon.

Legal concerns have delayed this feature’s release because taking a screenshot during a call with Live Captions enabled is virtually the same as recording a phone call. It’s illegal to record a phone call without first informing everyone that they are being recorded. And, of course, if someone doesn’t wish to be recorded, they don’t have to take the call. Google has figured out a way to get around this law. The way it works is Google Assistant alerts everyone at the beginning of the call that the conversation will be transcribed in real-time by Live Captions. This way, you, Google, and the other party are all protected.

Live Caption works wonderfully on the Pixel 4, and we’re hoping to see it available on a lot more phones sooner rather than later. Until then, feel free to peruse our list of Android 10 features.

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