As a Nexus 6 user, I have enjoyed using Google Contacts for managing my contacts and Google Phone as my dialer since Day 1. These are, after all, the default apps that come on Nexus phones as well as several others. Now everyone can uses these apps if they chose as the company has rolled them out as standalone apps in the Google Play Store. I would say that this has been a long time coming.
Google began rolling out standalone versions of many of their apps at the beginning of this year and that has continued throughout 2015. It is all part of an effort by the company to provide a “Google experience” through their apps and not simply mark them for Nexus use only. Indeed I wrote on this very subject back in July and I firmly believed then as I do now that this is part of the larger strategy that will bring additional success with Android to Google. Key to that is the fact that they can roll out updates like these today without requiring a new build of Android – or carrier involvement in that process. You can read why Google apps are so important to the future of Android at this link.
Google Contacts is a solid contacts manager
The updated version of Google Contacts is 1.3.07 for those keeping score and while the big news is the standalone distribution of the app, there are also some nice tweaks and improvements in the
release too. The editing of contacts is now a bit more streamlined and you won’t have to do as many taps to add information or edit existing information. It’s not a big change mind you but it is a change that long time users of the app will appreciate. There are also a fair number of bug fixes and other improvements in performance to the app.
Fundamentally Google Contacts is much like any other contacts manager so those of you who are new to the app, don’t expect a lot of bells and whistles. It gives you what you need and it is a solid performing app like many of the other Google apps. Perhaps more importantly though, you will get to experience what Google really had in mind when they came out with these and Android.
Google Contacts is free in the Google Play Store.
Google Phone For Your Calls
Like Contacts, Google Phone has also been updated as part of this move to a standalone app. First, you will notice an improved look to your contacts page in the app which is probably the most visible change. For those contacts, if you have assigned them a nickname in Google Now, you will see that name for them instead of their full contact name. From a new feature perspective, Call Blocking is now a feature of Phone. You can now block numbers from unwanted callers either within the settings of the app or right after they call you, there is a link to block them in the app.
Perhaps my favorite feature of the new Google Phone app is Nearby Places. If you give the app location permissions, you can simply start typing in the name of a business near you and it will bring it into the dialer for you. So simple and intuitive and a huge, huge time saver if you are on-the-go looking for the number of a business. Once you type in the name of the business, just tap it and it will automatically dial the number for you.
Finally, there is now Visual Voicemail for those of you who are on Project Fi, T-Mobile and Orange. These are the only three carriers that are supporting it at this time but hopefully we will see this feature expand in the future.
Like Contacts, Google Phone is free in the Google Play Store but interestingly, the link that they provided is not working at the time of this post. Keep checking back on the store to download it.