Google is turning the Messages app into its own bonafide variation on iMessages. The company’s announcement details a bundle of features coming to the Android app, including emoji reactions for iPhone users and voice message transcriptions. But the kicker is that some of the new abilities are only available to other Android users. Sound familiar?
The first new feature is built specifically with iPhone users in mind. Now when you’re chatting with your friends on iMessage, you can react to their messages with a corresponding emoji, the same way they did on iOS. However, when you—the Android user—react, the iMessage user won’t see the emoji pop up on their end. Instead, they’ll get a message showing the emoji reaction and the message to which it’s referencing—it’s the same way that iMessage used to send reactions to Android users until Google fixed it. How the tables have turned!
Google will also officially roll out the voice message transcription ability introduced with the new Pixel 7/7 Pro to other Android flagships, starting with the Pixel 6/6Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S22 series, and the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4. Now when someone sends you a voice message, you’ll be able to see the transcription on screen without listening to the audio. This feature will work with an audio message sent from an iPhone, though the iOS user has to record it separately in the Voice Memos app to share it.
Google will screen your messages for you in case you’re moving too fast and you forget something. Reminders are now included directly in Messages so that if someone is chatting with you about a birthday or event, Google will help remind you of that closer to the date. The Messages app will also recognize addresses and other important information you might need to reference later and suggest you “star” the message as a favorite for quick access.
To entice you to use the rest of its communication features, Google will suggest you fire up a Meet call if someone is pinging you about video chatting. It will also start experimenting with a feature that lets you “text” a business through Messages. And like Apple, it’s partnering with airlines to get you access to RCS even while strapped down in a giant metal tube. United Airlines is the first to offer free messaging on flights so that you can text folks back on the ground without forking over for the internet access fee.
These new abilities are part of Google’s campaign to extol the virtues of RCS technology, which stands for Rich Communication Services, over traditional SMS and MMS. It hopes the Android-using masses will pile on enough to get Apple to budge out of its walled garden. But until that happens, messaging will continue to be fragmented on Android, even with Google’s attempts at lobbying toward unification.
The icing on this maelstrom of messaging news is that Google will usher in three new icons for its Android communication apps. The Phone, Messages, and Contacts apps on Android will be getting new blue-hued iconography to match the rest of Google’s Material You stylings. The update is rolling out now in the Google Play store to compatible Android devices.