You may have noticed a peculiar update to your Nexus device recently: a fresh download for the Phone and Contacts apps.
Like Google has done with most of its system apps, the company is now updating these two directly from the Play Store. This gives Google flexibility to add in a new feature, fix a bug, or make other tweaks without pushing out an Android update.
But there was a bit of a mystery in how this was being implemented. The apps appeared for some, then were gone, then were back again, then were gone again… they don’t appear in the Play Store or in my list of previously updated apps. They updated, then promptly vanished.
We reached out to Google to find out what was up, and got the following statement:
First, a bit of background: as you probably know, Phone and Contacts haven’t been listed on Google Play in the past. That means historically we’ve only been been able to update them alongside each new version of Android (ie roughly once per year).
We’re now listing them in the Play Store so we can deliver improvements more rapidly, through Google Play updates.
The apps will only be listed in the Play Store for people who already have the apps on their devices (Nexus phones, Android One, and Google Play editions).
So this is a structural change: it helps us make the apps better by adding new features and improving the user experience.
Given how essential they are, we’re rolling out Phone and Contacts especially cautiously and gradually. Due to the way the update system works, some users (but not all) may have seen Phone and Contacts in Google Play but now can’t any longer. And due to how gradually we’re rolling them out, some users will continue to see them before others do. But we’re continuing roll-out in the days ahead, so: coming soon.
So if you have a device that runs the Google Phone and Contacts app already (A Nexus device, Android One, or Google Play Edition phone) you’ll eventually see them pop up in the Play Store. But if you’re running any other phone and looking forward to downloading these stock Google apps, you’re still out of luck.
Why this matters: It’s good news if you have a Nexus device (or are still holding onto a Google Play Edition phone) as it means new features may come your way before everybody else waits for an Android update. We’d love to see Google make these apps available to all users, as the dialer and contacts management tools on some phones leave a lot to be desired.