As anyone who's used it can attest, live captioning on Google Pixel phones is a big deal. Not only is it great for journalists who often need to transcribe long interviews — it's even better for deaf and aurally impaired users, who can see spoken conversations transform into text in real-time. While the feature is not quite ready to roll out to every single Android device, Samsung's two newest phones, the Galaxy Z Flip and the Galaxy S20, will soon be able to access the technology.
At the Samsung Unpacked event in San Francisco, Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president at Google, shared details about how Android would work in harmony with the latest Galaxy phones. Live captioning was arguably the biggest announcement, but there were two other noteworthy developments for Samsung's new handsets: APIs for the foldable Z Flip, and improved integration of Google apps for both phones.
Google also discussed 5G integration in Android devices, but didn't say much beyond the usual platitudes about how 5G will improve mobile communication, productivity and entertainment. Suffice it to say, both the Z Flip and the S20 will be able to use 5G networks once they're fully up and running.
First and foremost, live captioning is a technology that Google introduced with the Pixel 4 phone. This feature transcribes words during real-time conversations, either in real life or over video chat.
Live captioning isn't unique to Google, but the Pixel was the first phone to offer this technology as an integrated part of its software, rather than a third-party app. Live captioning is almost instantaneous and surprisingly accurate (compared to similar programs), and runs directly on your device, no Internet connection required. Hopefully, bringing this feature to Samsung devices is only a first step before bringing it to any sufficiently powerful Android device.
Google will also make Z Flip APIs and software-building tools available to developers. While an app developed for one Android phone will usually work on most other Android devices, that's not necessarily the case for a foldable screen. As such, Google wants developers to optimize their apps for both traditional screens and foldable ones. Flip phones may or may not be the next big thing, but Google doesn't expect them to peter out within the next year or two, at least.
Finally, Lockheimer announced that the Z Flip and S20 would have native integration with the Google Duo app for video chat, as well as an optimized version of YouTube Premium for the Z Flip's unique screen. Z Flip and S20 users will be able to launch Google Duo right from their Messages, Contacts and Phone apps, making video calls a little more seamless. Google will also offer free, yearlong subscriptions to YouTube Premium for early Z Flip adopters.
While Google's special features for the Z Flip and S20 seem fairly tame, live captioning, at least, is a useful trick that most other phones don't have. We'll see whether other devices will soon follow suit.