This new Android feature lets you make calls without speaking - but it's limited for now

Details are still a little sparse, but Google's new feature is a huge leap for accessibility.
Written by Artie Beaty, Contributing Writer
The outer display of the Google Pixel Fold
June Wan/ZDNET

Ever had a phone call you had to take but just didn't feel like talking? Google may have an answer.

Taking a page straight out of Samsung's and Apple's playbook, Google has unveiled a feature that lets users type a message to be read aloud during a phone call.

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Of course, anti-social aspect aside, the feature is a pretty significant leap in accessibility for people that may not be able to talk on the phone, but still have phone calls to make. With this addition, people who either have speech or hearing impairments can participate in an audio phone call. But, it could also be useful if you're in a loud environment and still need to make a call. 

"Use this feature," Google wrote in a post announcing it, "to make phone calls without speech." When the other person talks on the call, Google says, you'll get a real-time caption of what they're saying. If you type back, your message will be read out loud. There's no translating, the company notes, and you can only communicate in your current language.

Right now, full details are a little murky. Google hasn't revealed what languages will be supported or if the feature will be limited to certain devices. But, it's safe to assume that at least English will be included, and given that it was announced as an Android feature and not a Pixel feature, devices outside of Google's own will be included. 

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The Google notes on the new feature point out that it's only available for Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, Pixel 6a and Pixel Fold at the moment -- not even Google's newest phones -- so it seems almost certain new devices will be added in short time.

The feature should be live today for users with included phones. If you don't already have it downloaded, you will need the Android Accessibility app to take advantage of the new feature. To turn it on, head to settings, then live caption, then toggle on "type responses during calls." 

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