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Bubbles could be Android's best chat feature, if Google fixes it

Don't be surprised if Apple pinches this idea and does it properly.
By
March 30, 2022
Android Bubbles Settings
Robert Triggs / Android Authority

If you’ve been attempting to use Android’s Bubbles to manage your conversations, please know that you’re not alone in having a love/hate relationship with the feature. Many of us at Android Authority have tried but eventually given up on the little floating chat tool. Bubbles have been around since Android 11 but haven’t meaningfully improved with Android 12 or Android 13. It’s a shame because this should be a handy tool for staying on top of your conversations.

If you haven’t had the chance to try it out yet, Bubbles are essentially a floating icon that pops up when you receive a new notification, allowing you to quickly reply. Think Facebook Messenger’s Chat Heats, only more feature-rich and universal. You can assign specific conversations from various apps to show up in bubbles. They’re not limited to texting platforms, as they work with Slack and plenty of other apps too. Essentially, this is a one-stop shop for all your communication apps, reducing the time spent flitting between different services when you need to reply quickly. That’s a potent tool if, like me, you have contacts spread across countless messaging platforms. At least in theory.

If they weren't so broken, Bubbles could be a one-stop solution for all your contacts spread across messaging apps

The problem is that bubbles still don’t work correctly, despite being available for well over a year. In my experience, conversations from Whatsapp won’t appear in the floating window, while chats I’ve removed keep showing up. I’ve often been taken to the wrong app or had nothing appear in the window when responding to a notification. The bottom line: it’s a buggy mess that’s more of a hassle than it’s probably worth.

Google Android 12 Easter Egg on Pixel 6 Pro
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Google Pixel 6 Pro

It’s a shame as floating chats are one of the few recent OS features that has real potential to change the way we use our phones. Aggregating all our various points of communication is hugely valuable, but the true strength of Android’s Bubbles is that they’re fully fleshed out with all your messaging app’s capabilities too. You can send text and image replies, snap a quick photo from your phone’s camera, and access any other app functionality you need.

The little floating icon is really a gateway to another window for multi-tasking, which makes it much more powerful than the limited text-based quick reply options available from regular notifications. As such, Bubbles have the capabilities to be a game-changer for Android’s approach to messaging and could be a sought-after feather in its cap in light of the green bubble iMessage saga. But they need to function consistently with every app before that can happen.

Read more: Please don’t forget that a green bubble is a person

I’ve given up on the feature now; it’s too bug-riddled. I shouldn’t have been so surprised, Google never seemed to have much faith in Bubbles in the first place, either. They’re not even enabled by default with the Pixel 6 series. To be honest, Bubbles are par for the course with Google’s latest Pixel smartphone, which has suffered from auto-brightness, random calling, and Wi-Fi bugs too.

Do you use Android's chat Bubbles?

1060 votes

Google’s history of half-hearted and abandoned features is well documented. Sufficient to say that Bubbles are yet another great Google idea implemented poorly. There’s little evidence to suggest that the company will fix Bubbles, at least not before the next version of Android rolls around.

Bubbles are still a great concept, though. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple eventually comes along and implements the idea properly at some point, as has so often been the relationship between Android and iOS.