Google Brings Gemini to Messages App in AI-Flavored Android Feature Drop

BARCELONA–Google opened MWC 2024 with a grab-bag of new features for Android phones. And as in previous Android feature drops, you don’t have to look hard here to spy AI.

An advance copy of the company’s announcement, posted Monday, leads off with the news that Android’s Messages app will now let you talk to an entity that we trust isn’t in any of your contacts lists: Google’s Gemini AI chatbot, renamed earlier this month from Google Bard. 

Google’s post features a GIF of Gemini suggesting ways to optimize a joke that was already in dad-joke territory. The results suggest that humor remains something best left to analog jokesters.

AI to work inside Android Auto

(Credit: Google)

Another new feature, earlier spotted in Android code by 9to5Google, puts AI to work inside Android Auto to reduce the cognitive load for drivers by auto-summarizing texts and chats and suggesting situationally relevant replies and actions, like sharing your estimated arrival time.

Accessibility also figures in this feature drop. Google Maps will be able to speak important details about nearby places, such as hours of business, when you point your phone’s camera at your surroundings. And Lookout, the vision-assistance app Google debuted in 2019, expands its support for auto-generated, English-language captions of images to places outside the US. 

For the Android versions of Google Docs, the news involves adding the option of leaving handwritten annotations in documents in your choice of colors. Writing on a phone’s screen with swipes of a fingertip may not allow for long-form comments, but “huh?” probably comes off more forcefully when drawn in large virtual red ink. 

Google’s Fitbit app, meanwhile, supports the Health Connect enclave shipped in Android 14 to show data from apps that have been updated to work with this secure data platform co-developed by Google and Samsung.

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How to use ‘Photomoji’ in Google Messages

Google fans can now use a fun feature called Photomoji on the Google Messages App. The feature for SMS or RCS users lets you turn any subject in your picture into a type of sticker without using a third-party app. Did your cat make a funny face that would be perfect in your future messages? Here is how you can create a Photomoji with it or turn it into a reaction.

Note: Pixel and Galaxy S24 users can now enjoy the features, and while the feature appears to be rolling out more widely, you may need to wait a little longer before you have access to the feature. Make sure to keep your apps updated so you get the feature as soon as possible on your Android phone.

What is Photomoji in the Google Messages App?

Photomoji was announced in late 2023 and allows you to turn whatever is in your picture into a reaction or sticker. You can use an image you have on your device’s photo gallery or take a new picture and create it from there. If possible, Google Messages will remove the background, but the downside to the feature is that it doesn’t let you cut, add filters, or rotate the subject in your picture.

The Photomoji you create can’t be placed between words like emoji; if you don’t send it, it won’t be saved for future use. However, you can treat them like stickers or use them as reactions, which adds new creative ways to express yourself.

The Photomoji creation has a limit of 30. If you’ve reached your limit, you must erase some to make room for more.

How to use Photomoji in Google Messages

Before getting into the steps to create your Photomoji, ensure you’re running on the latest version of the app

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Android Auto will have Google Assistant summarize your messages

Google is working on having “Assistant summarize your busy conversations” and messages when you’re using Android Auto. 

About APK Insight: In this “APK Insight” post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in case that they do ship. With that in mind, read on.


When driving, it’s fine to have one or two messages read aloud, but hearing more than that, such as every response in a group conversation, could be disruptive. Android Auto’s solution to that is having Google Assistant “summarize your messages” — specifically “busy conversations” — with AI.

Assistant can now summarize your messages. These summaries will be generated by artificial intelligence, so it’s possible there could be mistakes. You can turn this off any time in Android Auto Settings. Would you like to continue and have assistant summarize your busy conversations?

During the set-up process, Google warns that: “These summaries will be generated by artificial intelligence, so it’s possible there could be mistakes.” This is presumably referring to SMS texts and RCS chats from the Google Messages app.

You’ll be able to turn this feature on/off in Android Auto Settings, which we enabled below, along with Android Auto’s Developer options in the screenshot next to it:

  • Android Auto summarize messages
  • Android Auto summarize messages

Strings describing this capability appeared in version 14.52 of the Google app, which is currently in beta. It’s unclear when this will launch.

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Android Auto to summarize messages with Google Assistant and AI

Google is working on a new feature for Android Auto that will use Google Assistant and artificial intelligence (AI) to summarize messages.

This revelation comes from 9To5Google, who decompiled version 14.52 of the Google app uploaded to the Play Store with lines of code for this feature.

This new feature will use AI and Google Assistant to summarize messages in Android Auto, which could make constant notifications from group conversations less annoying and disruptive when driving.


Android Auto settings for message summary
Android Auto settings for message summary

Android Auto settings for message summary

Google says the “summaries will be generated by artificial intelligence, so it’s possible there could be mistakes,” and you will be able to turn it on/off in Android Auto settings when you want.

Since the strings for this feature were spotted in a beta version of the Google app, it’s unclear when it will be available publicly and get a worldwide release.

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Android Auto will use Google Assistant to summarize your messages

Last updated: December 28th, 2023 at 05:07 UTC+01:00

When you receive a message while driving, Android Auto notifies you about it and even reads it aloud. It is okay if you have received a couple of messages, however, things get irritating when you constantly receive group messages. The read-aloud feature could be disruptive and annoy you, diverting your focus from driving.

Thankfully, Google seems to have acknowledged this issue, and Android Auto might be getting a new feature to help resolve this problem. In an APK Insight post, folks at 9To5Google spotted that Android Auto will make use of Google Assistant to summarize your messages. Notably, Android Auto will summarize the messages using AI, so Android Auto, during the setup process, will show you a warning message, “These summaries will be generated by artificial intelligence, so it’s possible there could be mistakes.

The codes for this upcoming feature were spotted in the Android Auto Android app v14.52

Google will give Android Auto users the option to turn off this feature at any time from the Android Auto Settings menu. The strings of codes that indicated this new Android Auto Google Assistant AI feature to summarize messages appeared in the Android app v14.52. This version of the Android Auto app is in beta, so there is no clarity on when this feature will debut.

Multiple other Google products offer you the option to summarize messages. However, as noted by 9To5Google, the closest comparison to this new upcoming Android Auto feature is Google Chat’s ability to recap Spaces to help you catch up to the speed of a group conversation.

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Google Messages is not sharing location data with third parties

Android 14 introduced a “Data sharing updates for location” dashboard. Users were warned today that Google Messages is sharing location data with third parties, but this is not the case.

Users noticed today that Google Messages was appearing in the privacy dashboard with a notice that “Your location data is now shared with third parties” if they have enabled the app’s location permission – for the sharing feature.

Warnings on this page are generated from changes to the Data safety section, which was introduced in 2022, of the Play Store that app developers self-report. 

Individual app developers are responsible for the accuracy of their stated data sharing practices and may update their stated data sharing practices at any time.

Google

In the case of Messages, the company told 9to5Google this afternoon that the app’s development team basically checked the wrong Data safety box on the Play Store. At the moment, Location (both Approximate and Precise) is listed under the “Data that may be shared with other companies or organizations.” The app is not actually doing that, but it nevertheless triggered that “Data sharing updates for location” warning.

All the other big Google apps on the Play Store return “No data [is] shared with third parties.” More broadly, Google, as recently as yesterday, noted how “Maps never sells your data to anyone, including advertisers” (in the context of a different announcement about how Location History data/Your Timeline will soon be stored locally).

Google tells us that the Messages Play Store listing error will be corrected shortly.

Update: As seen in the third screenshot above, the Data safety section has been updated.

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