Google Messages beta can now translate iMessage reactions for Android users

Google Messages
(Image credit: Google)

Texting between Android and iOS is getting easier, as a new version of Google Messages is finally (finally!) adding support for iMessage reactions.

The new feature is currently rolling out in beta, and when enabled will automatically convert an iOS user's reactions (which Apple insists on calling Tapbacks) into an equivalent Android emoji on non-iOS devices (via 9To5Google).

The translated symbol will appear in the bottom-right corner, just as it would for an iOS user, although be warned – the experience isn't quite a like-for-like conversion.

Much like if you're trying to communicate through Google Translate, some subtlety might be lost when the Tapbacks are turned into emojis.

For the thumbs-up and thumbs-down reactions (Like and Dislike) the iOS and Android symbols are identical. But the heart Tapback will become a heart-eyes emoji, the HaHa becomes the tears of joy emoji, the exclamation points turn into a shocked-face emoji, and the question mark becomes a thinking emoji.

For most people, the changes won't matter all that much, but emojis could be perceived to carry different or more exaggerated meanings than Tapback responses. So if you're on iOS and reacting to your Android friend's messages you might want to be careful about how you react to what they say.

The reason there's a change at all is that the Tapbacks have to be converted into RCS (Rich Communication Services) supported symbols. RCS is the backbone of the Google Messages service, and delivers several other features including Wi-Fi texting, read receipts and end-to-end encryption like you'll find on other apps.

Once the update has been downloaded, Android users should find that the new feature is automatically turned on for them. Turning it off is fairly easy though: in Google Messages, open the menu by tapping the three vertical dots, then go to Settings > Advanced – here you should see a toggle for 'Show iPhone reactions as emoji'.

At this time Apple hasn't stated if it will adopt RCS, and support doesn't yet go both ways, so Google Messages users can't currently react to iMessages – we'll have to wait and see if that changes, but we're not holding our breath.

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.