In our utopian universe, the phone would get out of the way and simply always know who you want to contact, when, and in what context. Great! So how do we frame that? There have traditionally been two, fairly dumb signals: who you’ve told the system you care about and who you've actually talked to. What if we turned that on it's head?
With strong constraints around what we could and couldn't touch, we were able to sell the benefit of a smarter dialpad into what was usually a very minor maintenance release in 4.3. We knew simple T-9 matching, while compelling on it's own and noticeably absent from most modern phone dialers, wouldn't be enough. We created an algorithm that took not only alpha and numeric string matching into consideration but also incoming and outgoing calls to contacts weighted on both frequency and recency. What seemed like a very minor update ended being loved by Android users and became one of the stars of the release and would be coming a key piece of subsequent releases.
Rather than four peer views (favorites, history, contacts, voicemail) that have traditionally been in most phone apps, we tried to make a single screen surface contextual info when and where you need it. A transient set of cards that come and go as calls are missed, completed, or voicemails are received. A smart list that takes both user and system signals into account for sorting/surfacing contacts (favorites, frequent/recent calls).
Using Google Maps data and location data, as well as signals from call history, the new Android dialer surfaces nearby businesses in search results and autocomplete. Photographs and business meta data is surfaced in results with quick affordances to call, or view the full place details in Google Maps.
Android's new dialer is putting convenience and efficiency first: you can now search for business numbers without leaving the phone app. Your Android phone will now be much smarter when receiving calls, too.The Verge
Rather than another peer screen to favorites & history as has been standard in the past. The dialpad is treated as a full-blown Input Method Editor, accessible from wherever you are in the application. Building on the smart dialing system we designed for 4.0 Jellybean, we also used alpha and numeric matching to surface suggestions ranked by both frequency and recency of contact.
The in-call screen is has historically been pretty dumb across platforms. At Google, we had deep data from Google place pages in Google Maps as well as rich communication history between contacts. We designed built-in caller ID for businesses, location/direction info, and an affordance to kick off to maps for directions. For a person, we explored showing the most recent no-call communication or location information if they are sharing it. Additionally, this contextual information would persist in Google now during and for a short period after the call ends.
If you're looking to augment your team, roadmap your digital product, get your MVP off the ground, or even chat about a full-time design gig, I'd love to connect and help bring thoughtful, calculated design to the table.