Google’s messaging update could cause more green bubble grief with iPhones

Google’s messaging update could cause more green bubble grief with iPhones

Google’s Messages app is getting a series of updates that will bring the text app up to par Apple’s iMessage and Meta’s WhatsApp. But a feature designed to make emoji message reactions more consistent can initially be annoying for anyone using a non-Android phone or a third-party SMS app on Android.

According to a blog post on Thursday, the Messages app will now allow you to reply to any text with an emoji. But when a conversation is not over RCS — the SMS standard Google uses to offer enhanced features in its Messages app — it will do so by sending an SMS text indicating the emoji used while quoting the message the reaction is intended for. This is similar to how the iPhone handles emoji reactions to text messages between iPhone and Android users.

Earlier this year, Google added a feature that translates these texts from an iPhone into the correct emoji reaction for Android devices.

Google’s Jan Jedrzejowicz, who serves as product manager on Messages, said in a reporter roundtable that the feature is meant to add consistency to the Messages app rather than block the reaction feature from non-RCS conversations entirely. Regarding how the texts could initially appear in Apple’s iMessage, Jedrzejowicz said it will be up to Apple to decide whether to parse those texts into the emoji reaction in question.

Future messaging updates will also bring built-in replies to the app, the ability to watch YouTube videos in a conversation, and proactive suggestions based on texts in a conversation. These suggestions can include setting a reminder if a birthday is mentioned, a suggestion to “star” a message if it contains an important detail (like a lock code for a door) or setting up a Google Meet conversation if the conversation mentions that it is necessary to set up a meeting. These suggestions can be turned off if they feel too intrusive.

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Google is also expanding the availability of the voice message transcription feature introduced on the Pixel 7. This feature is coming to the Pixel 6 line as well as Samsung’s Galaxy S22, Z Fold 4 and Z Flip 4.

The Google Messages app will get a new set of icons, which will feature overlapping blue shapes for Messages, Phone and Contacts.

Google will partner with United Airlines to provide free RCS texting for flights over in-flight Wi-Fi. This is similar to other airlines’ offers, which include free texting over services such as iMessage and WhatsApp.

Although several of these features are already common in rival texting apps, they are particularly relevant as Google continues to push Apple to consider adopting the RCS text standard. RCS is being touted as a replacement for SMS and MMS as it is able to support features that the older standards cannot, including typing indicators, higher quality images and message encryption. However, RCS is largely led by Google, and the standard is generally not available outside of the company’s messaging app on Android.

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