Android bubble bar on Pixel Tablet hero

Mishaal Rahman / Android Authority

TL;DR

  • Google has been working on a revamped chat bubble experience for large-screen devices since early last year, but the feature has only now started to work.
  • Android has had native support for Messenger-like chat bubbles since Android 11, but the feature currently doesn’t scale well on large-screen devices like tablets.
  • Although the new chat bubble experience isn’t available yet, I managed to activate it a bit early to show off what it’ll be like.

Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram are some of the most popular apps on Android, so it’s no surprise that the OS has features designed specifically to improve the messaging experience. One of those features is actually a copy of something Meta’s Messenger app pioneered years ago: chat bubbles. Android added a chat bubbles API over three years ago in Android 11, but the feature has pretty much stayed the same since its initial release. That’s set to change in the near future, as Google is finally preparing to update the chat bubble experience on large-screen devices like tablets.

An APK teardown helps predict features that may arrive on a service in the future based on work-in-progress code. However, it is possible that such predicted features may not make it to a public release.

If you open a conversation in a chat bubble right now on an Android tablet, it’ll look and function exactly the same as on an Android phone. That means the chat bubble will be anchored to the left or right side of the screen, which makes it hard to reach on wider tablets. Google’s solution to this problem is to add a “bubble bar” — a small bar that’s anchored to the bottom right corner of the screen. Chat bubbles are pinned to the bubble bar when created, and by default, aren’t shown on the screen until you swipe up on the bar.

After swiping up on the bubble bar, you can switch between active bubbles by tapping their conversation icon. You can also tap the “+” button to see recent bubbles and dismissed bubbles. Lastly, to dismiss a bubble, you can tap on its title bar to show a pop-up menu with three buttons: Don’t bubble conversation, app settings, and dismiss bubble.

Android’s bubble bar has been in development since early 2023’s QPR2 release of Android 13, but it’s only with the most recent release of the first QPR3 beta of Android 14 that the feature has finally started working. Unfortunately, the bubble bar feature isn’t enabled by default yet, so I had to manually tinker with the update to show it off for this article.

It’s unclear when Google plans to release the bubble bar feature, but it’s possible it could go live in the stable release of Android 14 QPR3 in June or with the full Android 15 release later this fall. The bubble bar will likely come to large-screen Android devices like the Pixel Tablet first, but Google might also enable it on other Android devices with the taskbar enabled, such as the Pixel Fold.

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