Google pressing RCS adoption with latest Messages update

New Google Messages app
(Image credit: Google)

Google is updating its Messages app by adding new organizing features and multimedia support in a new effort to push the RCS protocol.

RCS (Rich Communication Service) is a communication standard that aims to replace the old SMS (Short Message Service) protocol.  The more modern standard allows for "richer text features," higher quality content, and end-to-end encryption for better security, according to Google. And that’s pretty much what users will be getting in this update, though app security won’t see any improvements. 

Google‘s stated goal is to “improve messaging between Android and iOS [devices]” as multiple tech industry bodies have been pushing for widespread RCS adoption. But there’s been one significant player standing in the way: Apple, which has refused to adopt the protocol.

New features

Earlier this year, Google Messages got an update that allows it to display emoji reactions from iPhone users. This latest batch revolves around helping people deal with messy group chats.

Messages will now start suggesting actions when it detects certain types of texts. For example, the app will suggest pinning texts with important details in them, like addresses or phone numbers, to keep better track of them. If it recognizes a message such as “Can you talk now?”, the app will suggest calling that person and surface the Google Meet icon for quick access.

Reminders will be further integrated into the app, allowing you to set future notices straight from Messages without opening anything else. And individual messages can be directly responded to, either by text or emoji, but you will need to first enable RCS.

With regards to multimedia support, it's more about making things more efficient. Audio messages sent through the app will be automatically transcribed thanks to the new Voice Message Transcription feature. Google points out this can be especially helpful if you’re in a crowded space. On top of that, YouTube videos can be watched inside Messages.

Google also mentioned it will be experimenting with a new feature in select countries. Through Messages, the feature will allow you to speak directly to businesses found on the Search and Maps apps. We reached out to ask which countries will have this tool. This story will be updated if we hear back. 

The update won't roll out for another few weeks, but you can download the Messages app straight from the Google Play Store right now.

Apple's decision

It’ll be interesting to see if these latest Messages app updates prompt Apple to finally adopt RCS. When asked about this at the Far Out event, company CEO Tim Cook claimed iPhone users don’t really care about the protocol, so Apple hasn’t seen fit to support it. Apparently, enough users don’t mind the cross-platform messaging disconnect. Plus you have options like WhatsApp on iPhone if people truly want that RCS support.

It isn’t out of the realm of possibility, however. At one point, Apple said it wouldn't put a USB-C port on iPhones but now they apparently will by 2024 as the European Union signed a law forcing them to do this. Granted, there’s no governing body telling Apple to adopt RCS, but it is facing mounting pressure from the industry. Even Mark Zuckerberg took a potshot at Apple in a recent Instagram post on iMessage’s lack of E2EE.

If you’re interested in secure messaging, be sure to check out TechRadar’s best encrypted messaging apps for Android

Cesar Cadenas

Cesar Cadenas has been writing about the tech industry for several years now specializing in consumer electronics, entertainment devices, Windows, and the gaming industry. But he’s also passionate about smartphones, GPUs, and cybersecurity.