How to use chat bubbles in Android 11

Android 11 chat bubbles
Android 11 chat bubbles (Image credit: Joe Maring / Android 11)

Google's goal with Android 11 was to improve upon a few key aspects of the OS that needed some polish, one of which being notifications. Notifications in prior Android versions have been very good, but in Android 11, we're introduced to a new feature that keeps important chat/messaging notifications on the forefront.

It's called "chat bubbles," and it's basically a copy/paste of Facebook Messenger's "chat head" feature that's been around for a few years. When you get a text, WhatsApp message, or anything else like that, you can now turn that regular notification into a chat bubble that floats on the top of your screen. No matter what you're doing on your phone, chat bubbles ensure you always have easy access to that conversation.

How to enable chat bubbles

First thing's first, you should know how to open a chat bubble in Android 11. Thankfully, doing so couldn't be easier.

  1. When you get a new text/message, swipe down to view your notifications.
  2. Tap the circle icon (it's on the bottom-right of the message notification).Source: Android Central

Just like that, your standard notification block is transformed into a chat bubble!

It's important to keep in mind that app developers need to add support for chat bubbles in order for them to work, meaning your favorite messaging app may not be compatible with the feature right away. That said, the goal of chat bubbles is for them to be available for any and all messaging apps you use — including Google Messages, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Discord, Slack, etc.

How to use chat bubbles

Now that you have a chat bubble on your screen, it's time to start using it. Your chat bubbles are just quick shortcuts for conversations you're having in your various messaging apps, meaning all of the user interface elements for the chat bubble look just like they would if you opened the full application.

  1. When a chat bubble is on your screen tap on it to open up the bubble.
  2. Tap Manage in the lower-left corner to view chat bubble settings
  3. Tap the + icon to view recent bubbles you've previously used.Source: Android Central

How to get rid of chat bubbles

Chat bubbles are great for ongoing conversations that you want to stay on top of, but once said conversation ends, there's no need to keep that bubble on your screen. Thankfully, removing it is super simple.

  1. Hold down on the chat bubble.
  2. Move it to the X icon at the bottom of your screen.
  3. Let go to delete it.Source: Android Central

How to change chat bubble settings

Using chat bubbles in the moment is great, and if you dig a little deeper, you'll find additional settings that allow you to fine-tune your experience with them. To do this, we need to journey into our phone's notification settings.

  1. Open the Settings app on your phone.
  2. Tap Apps & notifications.
  3. Tap See all apps.
  4. Tap the messaging app you want to adjust the settings for.Source: Android Central

  1. Tap Notifications.
  2. Tap Bubbles.Source: Android Central

On this page, you have a few different options for how you want that app to interact with chat bubbles. You can configure it so that it doesn't use chat bubbles whatsoever, only allow certain contacts from the app to trigger a chat bubble, or have all conversations be displayed in bubble format.

We recommend going through all of your chat apps and setting things up the way you'd like, that way your chat bubble experience will be as seamless and enjoyable as can be.

How to fix issues with chat bubbles

Chat bubbles are a great new addition to Android 11 — when they work. Some people have been having issues with getting the feature to actually function properly (regardless if they have the best Android phone or not), taking all of the fun out of it. If you're experiencing chat bubble issues, here are a few tips to try and remedy things.

For starters, you'll want to ensure that chat bubbles are actually turned on for the app you're using. Yes, it sounds obvious, but it doesn't hurt to double-check. If the app is set to "Nothing can bubble," you've found the culprit. Similarly, it's possible that the app you're trying to use chat bubbles with simply doesn't support the API yet. If that's the case, it's just a matter of waiting for the developer to implement the feature.

You may also want to try turning your phone off and turning it back on again. This is the go-to solution for so many tech problems, and that's because it works more often than not. Smartphones are complicated little machines, and sometimes, things just goof. Turn your phone off, give it a break for a few minutes, and everything should be back to normal once you reboot.

Have you listened to this week's Android Central Podcast?

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Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

20 Comments
  • I hate chat head on FB and these are going to be no different
  • You don't have to use them.
  • Well I actually like chat head on FB messenger... But I'm not getting Android 11 update anytime soon so I won't be using it on other messaging apps for now
  • They took the worst part of FB Messenger and universalized it. Crap.
  • Would be nice if people would use something OTHER THAN FACEBOOK MESSENGER to showcase this... literally any time 'chat bubbles' are mentioned for something 'other than FB Messenger', they STILL somehow ONLY use that messenger as an example... WE ALL ALREADY KNOW WHAT THAT LOOKS LIKE.... SHOW US SOMETHING THAT DOESN'T HAVE IT, DOING IT!!!! LIKE DISCORD! TELEGRAM! WHATSAPP!..... Geez how can something so obvious always get overlooked by literally freakin everyone -.-
  • Woah... you ok?
  • I'm right there with ya, dude. Discord isn't compatible yet, nor are any of the other messaging apps I tried to enable it for, including MS Teams, GroupMe, Hangouts, Allo, and Google Messages.
  • Commented on the wrong post...
  • I feel same, atleast let's see how it'll look like on something other than FB messenger we already know for long
  • Would be nice if apps other than Facebook Messenger and Slack could enable this. None of a Google's own messaging apps support it at all, and that's mostly all I use. No Discord, GroupMe, or MS Teams compatibility yet either, unfortunately.
  • Supposedly it works in the Google Messages app, but since Hangouts is my primary messaging & SMS app I haven't tried it. I did find it sort of silly that these new conversation features are one of the most visible new features in Android 11 and they don't work in Hangouts. I suppose they've been trying to phase out Hangouts for a long time now, but it meets my needs better than Messages or any other app so far.
  • I like the bubbles. I setup my Google Messages to do it for 4 different people I text with and one group. It is very buggy. I'm going to document it and submit my issues. Sometimes the ability to text stops showing up. Other times you open one bubble and a different bubble opens.
  • Simply not showing up at all on my Pixel 3a. I've enabled bubbles for all conversations, and nothing. Who knows- perhaps the user on the other end of the conversation also has to enable bubbles, which I realize makes little sense, but still...
  • I got a Pixel 2xl and my chat bubble don't work neither on google messages.
  • Yeah Pixel 3 and all stock. No chat bubbles. Option is in messages and it's turned on, simply doesn't work. If you install messages beta it works. Don't really care because I hate the bubbles. Google shouldn't be advertising this as new for 11 when it's busted.
  • Well considering it's not that much of an upgrade it makes the wait for Android 11 on us non-pixel users less stressful.
    It will probably be a year before I see it on my Moto g stylus . by that time all the bugs should be ironed out (I hope).
  • I just got a Pixel 4a 6 days ago. I upgraded to Android 11 on day 2. Can't get this to work. i figured being a Pixel phone i would have no problems. I did look on the Play Store and noticed that the last update for the Messages app was August 25, 2020. Hopefully Google will fix this issue in the next update.
  • I use Good Lock on my Galaxy Note 10 which already has this bubble feature for any messaging app, which I find quite handy, esp for WhatsApp