Google is bringing Android's reading mode to Gmail and social media apps

chrome reading app
(Image credit: Christine Persaud / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google issued a server-side update to Android reading mode, which is the built-in text-to-speech client for Android. 
  • Android reading mode was previously limited, and didn't support things like PDFs, emails, and social media apps. 
  • Now, the update allows Android reading mode to work in Gmail and social media apps.

For people who want or need to listen to text on Android rather than reading it, there's a convenient text-to-speech option available called Android Reading mode. However, it was fairly limited before a server-side update today added new uses for the feature, as reported by 9to5Google

Reading mode is an optional app that can be downloaded from the Google Play Store. It is a text-to-speech alternative to the built-in functionality in Google Assistant, which has caused some issues for users of late. However, it had a few glaring limitations in the past. Namely, Google said Reading mode wouldn't work with PDFs, emails,  messages, and social media apps.

Now, Android Reading mode works with at least some emails in Gmail, as first discovered by Artem Russakovskii on X. When you use it to read an email aloud, a new banner appears, warning users that Android Reading mode might not work well with email apps. 

Reading mode has also been updated to work with social media sites like X (formerly Twitter). However, again, there's another warning that says it might not work well on those platforms. Android Reading mode can show a plain text reading option and use text-to-speech capabilities in both use cases.

There are plenty of reasons that a feature like Android Reading mode could come in handy. Regarding the new functionality, reading mode can help you sort through a long email while multitasking. It might also be used to read a social media feed while your hands are full. Of course, there are accessibility uses for Android's Reading mode, thanks to the text-to-speech option that can help people with vision impairments.

If the Android Reading mode feature doesn't work, an error message will appear. "Can't read this content," the message reads. "Content with multiple paragraphs of text, like articles, usually works best. Try opening Reading mode from another app or website."

As noted by 9to5Google, since the most recent update to the Reading mode app was released in November 2023, this will likely be a server-side change. However, it's unknown how long the email and social media app functionality was live in Reading mode before it was spotted.

Brady Snyder

Brady is a tech journalist covering news at Android Central. He has spent the last two years reporting and commenting on all things related to consumer technology for various publications. Brady graduated from St. John's University in 2023 with a bachelor's degree in journalism. When he isn't experimenting with the latest tech, you can find Brady running or watching sports.