In recent weeks, Google has been testing and slowly rolling out a number of new features for Messages on Android. The company announced today that iMessage reactions, Google Photos integration, and several other capabilities will soon widely launch.
On iOS, users can respond to a text with one of six Tapbacks. Historically, that action was communicated to Android phones over SMS/MMS as an annoying quoted message. The Messages by Google app will now translate that response into an actual message and display it in the bottom-right corner of the text you sent.
The characters map to RCS reactions, but it’s not quite 1:1 with what iOS users intended. A tap on the emoji explains that it was “Translated from iPhone,” and you can disable “Show iPhone reactions as emoji” in Settings > Advanced. The feature will be available starting on devices set to English and additional languages will follow.
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Meanwhile, Google will offer to upload videos to Google Photos and share them as links. This will result in a much higher quality experience compared to MMS with the feature — once enabled from Settings > Google Photos — automatically integrated into the in-app media picker.
Messages will note how big videos are and link to where you can quickly manage them in the Photos app. In the future, this Google Photos integration will also work when sending images.
That integration is accompanied by a redesign of Messages that adds a navigation drawer to replace the crowded overflow menu, which is now replaced by your profile avatar to note which account you’re using for Google Photos. Settings are also found in that new menu, while everything else from Starred to Archived and “Mark all as read” is in the nav drawer.
Google amusingly frames these two capabilities, especially the addition of Google Photos, as being for the benefit for iPhone users that lack RCS:
Today, the RCS standard lets people with Android devices share beautiful, high-quality photos and videos with one another. But unfortunately, without RCS, they look blurry when you share them with your iPhone friends.
Underneath the search field, you’ll also notice tabs for “Personal” and “Business,” in addition to “All,” that automatically group (in a privacy-conscious on-device manner) your conversations. The app can also delete one-time passwords (OTPs) after 24 hours to reduce clutter. It’s rolling out to the United States now.
Another feature inspired by Gmail is a gentle reminder to reply to a message. Nudges move a conversation that needs a response to the top of the list and can be disabled from Settings > Suggestions. This will roll out first to English users worldwide. In a similar vein, Messages will also remind you about birthdays if this information is in your phone’s Contacts app.
But these new updates can only do so much. We encourage Apple to join the rest of the mobile industry and adopt RCS so that we can make messaging better and more secure, no matter what device you choose.
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