Google Updates Messages App to Enhance RCS, Annoy iPhone Users – Tech21K

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Google has announced a raft of updates to its Messages app for Android. Those chatting with Google’s app will be able to reply in-line to messages, set reminders, star messages, and more. Well, as long as you’re using RCS. Even if you’re not, Messages will let you react to all messages with an emoji, but that’s probably more about annoying iPhone users than anything else.

It would be an understatement to say that Google’s approach to messaging has been disjointed. The company has, at times, had four or five different messaging platforms, one or two of which are killed off every year. After Google took the “L” on Allo, it began focusing on RCS (Rich Communication Services) as an alternative to SMS. Initially, Google hoped carriers would implement RCS, but unsurprisingly, they were well on their way to making it a mess of walled gardens. Google implemented RCS itself in Messages, which is the default messaging app on most Android phones.

Most of the new Messages features require you to use RCS, which supports numerous enhancements over SMS like longer messages, read receipts, and high-resolution media. The new threaded replies will let you reply to specific messages without disrupting the flow of conversation, and you can set a reminder for specific messages as well. The app will also recommend adding a star to messages that it thinks are important enough to refer back to later. Should someone end a YouTube video, the updated Messages app can also play those in- line.

Google has added one more feature that appears aimed at giving Apple a taste of its own medicine. The Messages app will let you react to any message with an emoji, even if it’s not an RCS chat. So, those who aren’t using RCS (like iPhone users) will get the dreaded “X reacted to Y with Z” pings. That’s a pain Android users with iPhone friends know all too well when iMessage folks react to a green bubble. Google added a feature to Messages earlier this year that automatically strips those superfluous messages and appends the emoji to the original message. Google tells The Verge that if Apple wants to change how these reactions appear in its app, that’s up to Apple. Sick burn, Google.

green bubble

Google’s new emoji reactions mark an escalation of its catty messaging war with Apple. It has attempted to shame Apple into fixing the “green bubble problem” by adding support for RCS to the iPhone. Apple CEO Tim Cook has been unconvinced, saying the company has seen no indication its users want RCS support. He also unhelpfully suggested people just buy iPhones.

RCS is technically a standard — anyone with the resources can implement an RCS server as Google has. However, it’s effectively Android’s iMessage as there are only two mobile platforms of consequence. it’s unlikely Apple is going to pipe Google’s preferred messaging platform into its phones when iMessage is such a major source of lock-in for users.

This is really only a battle that matters in the US market. In most of the rest of the world, people have moved on to third-party messaging services like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger. For those still hoping RCS works out, the new features will arrive over the coming weeks.

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