Google is starting off the week with an update to the Contacts app. After poking around for quite some time, it looks like there aren't any notable changes on the surface, but changes to the resources suggest that we'll soon be able to turn on real-time location sharing with other people directly from within the Contacts app.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.
Real-time location sharing
Location sharing is a handy tool for catching up with friends or estimating how long it will take before somebody reaches you. While apps like Android Messages and Allo allow you to send a set of coordinates to somebody, they don't continue to update your position when you move around. For real-time updates, you'll want to switch to Google Maps.
Now it looks like the Google Contacts app may also be setting up to add location sharing. The latest version includes new text that makes it clear that you'll be able to share a specific address or turning on real-time updates so others can find you in a pinch.
<string name="real_time_location_map_content_description">Map of real-time location</string>
<string name="location_card_entry_header">Share your location</string>
<string name="location_card_title">Current location</string>
<string name="location_disambiguation_dialog_title">Choose address</string>
<string name="share_location_quick_action_label">Share location</string>
<string name="shared_current_location">with %s</string>
<string name="shared_current_location_timestamp">Updated %s</string>
I'm not entirely certain yet if Contacts will be hooking into the same system used by Google Maps, which is actually a part of Google Play services, but it's hard to imagine that it wouldn't. In fact, it's the lack of a feature that almost ensures Contacts is using the same feature – there doesn't appear to be an interface for seeing the locations others are sharing with you. For that, you probably still have to switch over to the Maps app.
This definitely could be a faster and more accessible way to use location sharing. Since the Contact app serves cards for other apps, it is far more accessible and often easier to use than opening Google Maps and manually searching for contacts there.
Phone number fixer?
Unlike the previous section, I really don't have much idea of what's happening in this one. There are new strings referencing changes in the phone number system that may result in old numbers no longer working. The Contacts app will offer to fix those broken numbers for you.
<string name="phone_repair_body">%s has changed its phone number system. Old numbers may no longer work.</string>
<string name="phone_repair_card_title">Update phone numbers from %s</string>
<string name="phone_repair_fragment_title">Fix phone numbers</string>
<string name="phone_repair_header">Updating will not remove the old number</string>
<item quantity="other">Updating %d phone numbers. Changes may take some time to appear.</item>
<item quantity="one">Updating %d phone number. Changes may take some time to appear.</item>
While the strings don't give much context for what type of number will need to be fixed, I have a couple theories to explain what might be intended. The first is that this relates to an office with some kind of IPX system in place. If there's a breaking change in the configuration, perhaps there's a standard for also telling every device on the network to correct its contact numbers.
A similar theory, but on a bigger scale, involves countries or regions where it becomes necessary to add more digits to its phone numbers. As more numbers are assigned, it's obviously possible to run out. There are a handful of small island nations and other land masses that are so small that they currently operate with phone numbers with as few as 4 digits (not counting country code).
If any readers happen to have a better explanation, hit the comments below. Perhaps I'm missing a bigger, more interesting feature to explain what's happening here.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.