Over the past several updates, the Google Phone app has added some new, but mostly minor features. Now, version 17 is introducing a new floating chat head that provides convenient access to controls during a call.
Back in August, we detailed the Google Phone app experimenting with a floating bubble that when tapped reveals a control strip with quick in-call options.
It is now live in version 17 with some visual changes to the interface. The chat head features the avatar of who you are calling, through the pulsating in-progress indicator remains in the bottom-right corner. Meanwhile, instead of a vertical bar, tapping the chat head opens a dropdown menu underneath.
The first option allows users to return to the traditional interface within the Google Phone app, while other controls include mute, switch to speaker, and hanging up. The latter is also possible by dragging the chat head to the bottom-right of the screen, where users can also hide the bubble completely.
Meanwhile, returning to the Phone app (by tapping the launcher icon) presents users with controls for adding participants to the call, returning to the full in-app UI, and bringing up the keypad.
This new interface coexists with a persistent notification in the shade, but is more feature rich with controls. For example, the chat head allows users to access other parts of the Phone app while in a call, like history or voicemail.
The Google Phone app is only available on Pixel, Nexus, and Android One devices, but hopefully other OEMs will adopt this useful feature. Version 17 is now rolling out via the Play Store.