In late 2023, Google Chat was given a lick of paint and a general tidy-up – and now that refresh is rolling out widely to the Google Chat app on Android phones. According to 9to5Google, the rollout has ramped up quite dramatically this week and is reaching all kinds of Android devices.
Although Google Chat is of course a Google property just like Android, the app changes are already in the iPhone version of the app. It's taken a while for the Android app to catch up, presumably because it needs to be tested on a much wider range of hardware.
According to the report, the redesign is "slowly appearing on an account-by-account basis" rather than rolling out to everybody with a specific device. If you don't yet see it on your Android phone, try force-closing Chat and Gmail (the latter's chat icons have been updated too). You might want to check in your Gmail app that chat integration is enabled, because it isn't enabled by default.
What's new in the Google Chat app for Android
The changes don't just make the app look a bit nicer, although they clearly do look a bit more attractive than before. They make the Chat app more useful too, because they include navigation improvements and streamlining that makes it faster to access the key features of the app and to see where you are at a glance.
The most obvious change is in the icons at the bottom: instead of Chat and Spaces, there are now icons for Home, your direct messages, Spaces and Mentions. The icons are collected in a lozenge-shaped area at the bottom of the app and highlighted with a circle to show you what tab you're currently in.
Google isn't just updating Chat. As we saw during the Samsung Galaxy S24 launch this week, it's also working on better ways to do mobile search: the new Circle To Search feature that Samsung showed off yesterday is also coming to Pixel phones on 31 January. The feature will be available on the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro as well as the entire Samsung Galaxy S24 range.