Good news, green bubbles: Google has finally flipped the switch on an update that makes texting on Android more like iMessage.
If you live in the U.S, Google’s Messages app should now officially support “chat” features like read receipts, typing indicators, and better support for photo and group messages. The update is the result of a effort by Google to ditch SMS, which was created decades before the first smartphones changed how we think about text messaging.
Google announced in November that it was upgrading its Messages app to support Rich Communication Services (RCS), a newer standard that allows messages to be sent via Wi-Fi, along with all the other “chat” features you expect from a messaging app in 2019. But Google being Google, this update wasn’t actually available to everyone until Thursday.
Now, as long as you have the latest version of Messages and Carrier Services, you should be able to text with all the “chat” features fully enabled.
Importantly, these upgrades only work if you’re texting someone who is also using an RCS-supported messaging app. So if you’re texting someone who uses an older, out-of-date app like a carrier-branded service, the new features won’t work until that person also upgrades. (You can tell if your messages are RCS or SMS by looking at the compose window before you start typing; threads that support RCS will be labeled as “chat message.”)
It also won’t do anything to address the green bubble/blue bubble dynamic. Because while the new “chat”-friendly Android Messages may function similarly to iMessage, Apple does not, in fact, support RCS in its messaging services. So any messages between iOS and Android users will still be sent via the same old SMS standard.
“We would need Apple to also adopt RCS, the standard, in order for this experience to also be improved for iPhone users,” Google product management director, Sanaz Ahari, explained in an interview in November. “But we certainly believe that we all kind of collectively owe it to our users to really upgrade them from this, you know, 30 plus year old technology and give them the modern messaging protocol that they really deserve.”
For its part, Apple hasn’t publicly said where it stands on RCS, but the company has reportedly held “discussions” on the matter so there might be a glimmer of hope. Until then, there’s not much green bubbles can do make group messages with their iPhone-wielding friends less painful, short of using an entirely separate app like WhatsApp,
But, the fact that Google has finally flipped the switch at least puts everyone one important step closer toward a future where everyone can text without fear of “ruining” the group chat.