Google begins rolling out improved Android phone dialer user interface

Google recently updated the Phone app to optimize the Android dialer’s look. As a beta tester for the phone app, this author has had these changes for a while, but they are rolling out now for those who choose not to test apps on their phones. Of course, the benefit of being a beta tester is that you get the first glimpses of new features or new UI designs and more.

The old dialer interface showed the name and number you’re calling at the top of the screen with six options in the middle, arranged in two rows of three icons each. The top row contained Mute, Keypad and Phone. Just below that were Add Call, Video Call, and Hold icons. At the bottom center of the display was a single button for making a call or hanging up on an active call. Pressing the keyboard icon opens the numeric keypad in the bottom 40% of the display.

Google is cleaning up the Android dialer UI in the Phone app

After the update, there are only four icons when making calls, all of which take up one line in the lower third of the screen. These icons are, in order, keypad, mute, phone, and more. You see, Google brilliantly removed three of the icons and put them in a button called “More” to save space. Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when they came up with this idea. Tap More and hold call, video call and add call icons will appear.

Before update. Photo credit Android Police

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And now, when you press the keyboard button, the numeric keypad opens further up the screen, leaving the original four icons fully visible. This should now be available as long as you are using version 98.x of the Phone app. To find out what version your phone is, go to Settings > Apps > See all XXX apps, then scroll down to Phone. Tap on Phone and scroll to the bottom of the screen and you will see the version number of the app. For the record, my phone is running version 100.0 and is in public beta.

The new and improved dialer eliminates the floating box that would obscure the content on the screen

And there is one more big change. If you’re on a call but need to open an app or get online, swipe up from the bottom of the call screen to go to your home screen and open a floating panel that gave you options like back to the call that returned you to the call screen; Mute, which is self-explanatory; Phone; and end the call. But that floating box got in the way of whatever content you were watching during the call. So with the update, if you swipe up from the bottom of the screen while on a call, you’ll see a little pill with a phone icon next to the time in the top left of the display.

The new and improved dialer user interface is introduced on Android devices

There’s a timer in the pill that counts how long you’ve been on the phone, and when you need to end the call, mute the call, turn the speaker on or off, or add another caller, tap the pill and you’re sweeping to return to the call screen, from where you can make the desired changes to the call. And by putting that pill where it did, Google makes sure the content you’re showing during a call isn’t obscured by a floating box. Sure, it floats, but who wants to keep it out of the way all the time?

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These might not seem like earth-shattering changes, but they save some screen real estate, they make the UI look better, and they might even save you some time.