The Google Phone app is being updated in the Google Play Store, bringing a new chat head feature and improved persistent notification shade. The new build is version 17.0.184919600 and will come to compatible devices (Google Nexus & Pixel phones, Android One phones, etc) over the next few days.
The main new feature is a chat head feature. Now, when you are in a call and move away from the Google Phone app, you will have a chat head, similar to Facebook Messenger, appear on your Home screen. Tapping that head will allow you to control the call: Return to the call, mute the call, move the call to speaker or hang up. There is nothing you have to do to enable this feature and you can move the chat head around your Home screen to a convenient place.
The Google Phone app has a small update rolling out but it has a big fix for some users who have had issues with answering calls with a Bluetooth device connected to your phone. The update, version 16.0.181771308 is rolling out now and it fixes an issue where users couldn’t answer calls because their phones wouldn’t wake up when a call was incoming. The issue seemed to impact mostly Pixel 2 owners but others in the Google Product forums reported it as well.
The issue, based on reports in the forums, seems to have been resolved with this update which became an issue after the last update to the app.
It has taken a few weeks but the ability to elevate a call within Google Phone to Google Duo has now rolled out to everyone. The feature allows you to switch a phone call from a voice only call to a video call with a touch of a button within the Phone app. But, as you would suspect, there is a catch.
First, you and the person you are calling has to be using the latest Google Phone app and the latest Google Duo app. The latter of these isn’t so tough as you can download it from the Play Store. The former, however, isn’t so easy. Many manufactures have their own phone apps and you can’t install the Google app.
Assuming you can get past the apps issue, the other gotcha is that both you and the calling party have to have Duo installed and registered with the mobile number you are calling. It is only under these circumstances that you’ll see the video call option in the Phone app.
While it won’t fall in the “most exciting” app category, the Google Phone app is a solid performer and Google, like so many of their other apps, continues to make improvements to it. The latest update to the dialer is rolling out in the Google Play Store now, bringing with it a few new features along with the normal smattering of bug fixes & performance updates.
The new build is version 15 for those keeping score at home.
Borrowing a feature from the Google Contacts app, this new version of the Phone app now has a contact clean up feature. Now when you go to the Contacts tab within the app, a bottom pop-up will display to show you which contacts you have that are duplicated. You can then choose to clean those contacts up by merging them. The feature is not as robust as the one found in the proper Contacts app but will get the job done nevertheless.
The Google Phone app has a nice update rolling out this morning that brings some new features. The update is build 10.1.161735957 for those keeping score at home and who like to play Google version bingo and it is rolling out to the Play Store now.
The big new feature in this update to the Phone app is emergency location information. If you call 911 here in the US, you will be shown in the app (via Google maps) where you are calling from so that emergency services can find you faster. It helps you see where you are faster which means help can get to you faster.
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.