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Latest update to Google's Phone app introduces floating chat heads

Google's Phone app also includes code that lays the groundwork for Real-Time Text (RTT), which is meant to succeed TTY.

Published onFebruary 15, 2018

  • Google’s Phone app now features floating chat heads.
  • You can return to the Phone app, mute the call, put the call on speaker, and end the call from the chat heads.
  • Version 17 of the Phone app is available from the Play Store.

Google updated its Phone app to support Facebook Messenger-like floating chat heads, though Google is working on another feature for the hearing- or speech-impaired.

Available in version 17, the chat heads display images you selected for callers. If you did not pick an image, the chat heads display a generic avatar.

Pressing on the chat head reveals a small drop-down menu that lets you return to the Phone app, mute the call, put the call on speaker, and end the call. You can tap the chat head to hide the drop-down menu, though you can also tap and hold the chat head to either hide it or end the call.

Even though you can hide the chat head, there does not appear to be a setting in the Phone app to permanently disable it. The only workaround is to find the list of apps that can “display on top of other apps” and disable the feature from there. You can find that list within the Settings menu.

Chat heads are not the only new feature in version 17, as Android Police‘s APK teardown also revealed the groundwork for Real-Time Text (RTT) support.

Meant to replace the existing TTY protocol, RTT immediately transmits each letter and character to the receiving person. This is particularly useful for those in noisy environments, and it is not meant to solely be used by the hard of hearing or seeing.

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The FCC adopted RTT and implemented rules that see wireless carriers implement the new protocol from December 2017 to June 2021.

Version 17 of Google’s Phone app is available from the Play Store. Keep in mind that the Phone app is only available for Nexus, Pixel, and Android One devices.

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