Google is working to bring iMessage reactions to Android

Screenshots from Google Messages on Android.
Google Messages on Android. (Image credit: Google)

Apple iMessage remains very much an iOS-only app – mainly because Apple knows it keeps people locked into the iPhone – but Google is working on bringing at least some level of iMessage support into its own Messages app for Android.

As spotted by 9to5Google, new code in Google Messages refers to iMessage reactions: the little thumbs up emojis and text emphasis flourishes that show up natively in iMessage on iOS but don't translate over in SMS texts sent to Android devices.

SMS is currently used as a fallback for anyone using Android in an iMessage group chat, with text placeholders – e.g. "liked an image" – used in place of the actual reactions. That can quickly clutter up a conversation for those not on an iPhone.

Chain reaction

Although the updated functionality was originally spotted in a beta version of Google Messages, it now appears to be rolling out for at least some users worldwide – although we haven't heard anything official from Google about the update.

Screenshots from 9to5Google show the clumsy text boxes generated by iMessage reactions replaced by emojis, right alongside the messages they're referring too. That should make for a more fluid and less annoying experience for Android users in iMessage group chats.

There's even a "translated from iPhone" pop-up on screen, and it appears the reactions – apparently powered by the RCS upgrade Google has been rolling out – can change if they are updated in the iMessage conversation that they originate from.

Opinion: it's time for Apple to adopt RCS

iPhone 13

The iPhone 13. (Image credit: TechRadar)

While Apple's refusal to port iMessage to Android is hugely frustrating for those without an iPhone – which is a lot of people, especially outside the US – it's an understandable decision. It's one of the main reasons people stick with iOS, so they can get the full iMessage functionality in conversations.

In the UK, where as many people are using Android as are using iOS, WhatsApp has become the standard messaging app – mainly because it works the same no matter which phone it's running on, or who gets added to a group chat.

Meanwhile Google is pushing hard to get the RCS (Rich Communication Services) standard made the default in place of good old SMS text – RCS adds a lot of features you'll find in WhatsApp and iMessage, such as read receipts and better support for images and stickers.

RCS is now widely available for Android users worldwide, but there's one company who has so far refused to support it: Apple. Considering how little consideration Apple has shown to Android users in the past, we're not holding our breath for this to change, but it would be a very welcome development.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.