Google LLC’s standard Messages application, which comes pre-installed with every Android smartphone, is getting a major update today almost two years after it was first brought into the 21st century when it added support for Rich Communication Services.
Google Messages is built around the RCS standard, which is a modern messaging protocol for SMS text messages that supports richer text features, higher-resolution images and videos, as well as end-to-end encryption. By using RCS, Google Messages provides a secure and modern messaging experience that’s similar to using an app such as WhatsApp.
In a blog post, Google Group Product Manager for Messages Jan Jędrzejowicz announced no fewer than 10 new updates that are finding their way into the Messages app over the next few weeks. They include the ability to respond to individual messages within a group conversation where RCS is enabled, and support for emoji reactions when reacting to SMS texts from iPhone users. Previously, emoji reactions were only possible when texting other Android users.
Voice messages are becoming more accessible within Messages too. The new Voice Message Transcription feature relies on machine learning to auto-transcribe voice messages so they can be accessed in situations where it’s not easy to listen, such as, if the user is in a busy public place like a train station, airport or concert.
Meanwhile, Messages now includes a Reminders feature that allows people to make notes, set reminders to call someone, or schedule an appointment from directly within the app. And sticking with the ease-of-use theme, Messages can also now intelligently suggest which messages should be “starred” based on factors such as if they contain an address or phone number, to help users keep track of important conversations.
Other new capabilities include the ability to watch YouTube videos from directly within Messages, and suggest Meet calls by showing an icon to open a call directly next to certain messages, such as when someone says “Can you talk now?” It will also suggest adding calendar events when it sees messages like “Let’s meet at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.”
There’s also a new experimental feature coming to some unnamed countries that will make it possible to chat directly with businesses found on Search and Maps via Messages, so these kinds of communications appear all in one easy, searchable and secure place. In addition, Messages will now work across other devices, including Chromebooks and Android smartwatches such as the Pixel Watch.
Finally, Jędrzejowicz said the application is getting a refreshed look and feel, with an updated Messages icon set to roll out in the coming weeks. The new icon is designed to feel more like Google’s other products and reflect the more modern messaging experience it provides.
“It takes more than one side to have a conversation, and that’s reflected in the design, with overlapping messaging bubbles coming together as one,” Jędrzejowicz said. “Our Phone and Contacts apps will also be updated with the same look and feel to signal their shared purpose: helping you communicate. Each is designed to adapt to Material You themes, so they can always match your personal style.”