While Google I/O is on everybody's mind, there are still plenty of other big things happening. The latest update to the Google Phone app is rolling out now, and like most updates, there's not much to see outside of a few visual tweaks. However, clues inside the apk reveal that we can look forward to getting audio recordings from Call Screen interactions, send wrong number calls packing, and make emergency calls without having to speak.
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. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.
Call Screen: Responding to wrong numbers
The Call Screen feature is pretty great for dealing with cold calls from obnoxious telemarketers and those infuriating (and questionably legal) calls from political campaigns — literally nobody wants these calls! While you could tap almost any response to end the call, it helps to have the right response to fit the situation, and it looks like we're about to have the perfect answer for one more common occurrence: Wrong numbers.
New text shows that the button will be simply titled "Wrong number" and it will respond to the caller with, "You have the wrong number. Thanks, and goodbye."
<string name="wrong_number_and_end_call">You have the wrong number. Thanks, and goodbye.</string>
Your current options for responses are directed either toward mostly personal interactions, like saying you can't answer the phone right now or that you will return the call later, or they are treating the caller like a spammer. Responding that the caller has simply entered the wrong number is far more helpful to the caller and won't come across as insulting.
Call Screen: Audio recordings
A new version of the intro script for Call Screen reveals that there are some changes coming to the feature. For starters, if you've ever seen the transcription of the caller's message, you might have had no clue what was actually said. Naturally, many users have requested audio recordings since Call Screen first launched, and now it looks like Google is going to deliver.
In the strings below, those with 'donation_off' in the name simply mention a transcript of the call, and those with 'donation_on' also mention that the recipient of the call will get a recording.
<string name="start_call_contacts_donation_on">Hi, the person you\'ve reached is using a screening service from Google, and will get a recording and transcript of this call. Go ahead and say why you\'re calling.</string><string name="start_call_non_contacts_donation_off">Hi, the person you\'ve reached is using a screening service from Google, and will get a transcript of this call. Go ahead and say your name, and why you\'re calling.</string>
<string name="start_call_non_contacts_donation_on">Hi, the person you\'ve reached is using a screening service from Google, and will get a recording and transcript of this call. Go ahead and say your name, and why you\'re calling.</string>
One other change, albeit very subtle, will now differ the opening script based on whether the call comes from a random number or a recognized contact. Known callers will be asked for the reason they are calling while unrecognized numbers will also be asked to state their name. It's a very small thing, but shows some interesting attention to detail.
Contacting emergency services silently
Emergencies come in many different forms and sometimes with very challenging circumstances. In most situations, you're going to call 911 (or whatever number your country uses) and tell an operator what's happening, where you're at, and answer any pressing questions while they dispatch the right people to handle the situation. However, what happens if you are injured and can't speak, or the environment is too loud for you to be heard, or speaking to the operator might give away your location and put you into more danger. Google is adding some capabilities so callers can interact without relying entirely on speech, and it may even be using Duplex to power it.
New text shows some key parts of an interaction that can occur by simply pressing buttons on your phone to communicate fundamental details to an emergency services operator. Initially, users are told that they can communicate without speaking, and it appears they are able to choose between police, fire, and medical. The final element shown here is a batch of messages where you can pass your location to the operator, which can be done with longitude and latitude, a Plus code, or an address.
<string name="emergency_assist_intro">You are being contacted by an automated voice service initiated by the caller. The caller may be unable to speak or hear.</string>
<string name="emergency_chat_to_operator_intro">You are being contacted using Real Time Text. This message has been automatically sent on behalf of the caller. They may be unable to speak or hear.</string><string name="emergency_assist_share_situation">Alert operator without speaking</string>
<string name="emergency_chat_to_operator">Message the operator</string><string name="emergency_voice_assist_dialog_title">The emergency operator hears this</string>
<string name="emergency_voice_assist_dialog_button_close">Cancel</string><string name="emergency_assist_cant_speak">Silently share location & emergency type</string>
<string name="emergency_assist_location_sentence">My location is %1$s longitude, %2$s latitude.</string>
<string name="emergency_assist_plus_code_sentence">The Plus code for my location is %1$s.</string>
<string name="emergency_assist_address_sentence">My location is %1$s.</string><string name="emergency_assist_button_fire">Fire</string>
<string name="rtt_emergency_text_fire">I require the fire department.</string>
<string name="rtt_emergency_text_medical">I require medical assistance.</string>
<string name="rtt_emergency_text_police">I require police assistance.</string>
Icons for each emergency service: Fire, Medical, and Police.
If you're looking closely, you'll also notice some strings are titled with RTT, or Real-Time Text, which basically enables text messages in parallel with a voice call. If Google is taking advantage of RTT for these emergency calls, it would help callers and operators stay on the same page, so to speak. Operators would also be able to hear environmental conditions and react if some communication can be heard while other things are only sent via text.
I'm obviously not going to try to test this myself, but I can't find any signs that this is operational yet or any public documentation to suggest emergency service operators actually expect these types of communications. It's also not entirely clear if this is going to become available simply by dialing an emergency number or if you'll have to take any steps to make it appear; but it seems likely it will work a lot like the existing Emergency Location Service support that was added late last year.
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.