Five tips to get more out of the Google Phone app

Google’s dialer is a smart search companion, contact manager, and all-around phone toolkit.

google phone app
Derek Walter

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One of the many benefits of using a Nexus device is all the Googly goodness packed into the phone’s dialer.

That’s because Google’s official Phone app is far superior to the alternatives on Samsung, LG, or other handsets. You’ll find it only on Nexus and Google Play Edition phones.

Google recently announced it would begin updating the Phone app (along with the Contacts app) through the Play Store for more rapid servicing.

If you have a Nexus or tried-and-true Google Play Edition phone as your daily driver, it’s worth it to spend a few minutes to learn some of the hidden tricks in what might seem like a not-so-glamorous app. But next time you need to find the nearest pizza place or know more about that mystery caller, you’ll be glad you know all the tricks.

Get to searching

It’s a Google app, so of course there’s going to be a search component. The friendly search bar at the top of the screen is useful for finding the details about a local business, eatery, or coffee shop. It can pull up company’s customer service numbers, as well. The key is to try it out. Just start typing and you’ll see suggested results.

google phone app search

No need to use the Google app - just perform a search right from the phone app.

If you touch on the icon for one of the contact entries, you’ll get more details about that venue or be able to see the information in your contacts.

Once this screen pops up, you can touch the messaging icon to send an SMS message. If you touch the address, you’ll get a map—the directional arrow icon will launch into Google Maps with directions from your location.

Find out who’s bothering you

It’s annoying to try and guess if you should answer the phone for that number you don’t recognize. It could be the pharmacy confirming your prescription. Or it’s a telemarketer trying to upgrade your Internet package again.

The Phone app can help you out here. It uses a feature known as Caller ID by Google to identify who is calling you. No guesswork needed.


When you make or receive a call, Google will check the number with its own caller ID service and show you contact information.

It also works with outgoing calls; if you’re typing in a number you wrote on a random scrap of paper, you’ll probably find out who you’re calling.

This is really one of my favorite features about the dialer, and it makes going to a non-Nexus phone rather painful.

Create quick responses

Sometimes you just don’t have time to talk. Or maybe you’d just rather just not have to explain to your mother why you haven’t called her in weeks. The dialer lets you create a series of quick responses to fire off a message on your behalf when you’re on the other line.

quick responses

Fire off a quick response next time you’d rather not switch conversations when someone else calls you.

To do this, go to Phone > Settings > Quick responses. There are four stock choices: Can’t talk now. What’s up? I’ll call you right back. I’ll call you later, and Can’t talk now. Call me later?

Touch one of the responses to edit the text.

When you receive a call, slide the middle button up to the message icon, and then choose which message to send back to the caller. Your phone will then fire it off as an SMS message.

Replace your contacts app

Nexus devices come with a dedicated contacts app, but just go ahead and shove it in the app drawer because you won’t really need it. That’s because the phone app does a bang-up job of not only organizing your contacts, but letting you import and export them as needed.


You can perform a lot of contact-management tasks right inside the dialer.

The app can take in or send away .vcf files from your device storage or a SIM card. Just go to Settings > Import to add new contacts. While it’s usually less cumbersome to just move over your contacts through a cloud account, it’s a good option to use if you need it.

All these tools are what can make a Nexus device feel like such an upgrade over other Android phones. You get the full resources of Google’s search prowess in a lot of different places, which can make those everyday tasks like calling the pharmacy that much faster.

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