Google Messages teaches old dog SMS a new trick

Even if you don’t use the app, reactions are getting better thanks to Google


Despite Google’s repeated pleas and jibes at Apple to adopt RCS messaging for iPhones, we aren’t any closer to that happening. Reactions (or Tapbacks, as Apple calls them) are a key sticking point for the two parties as communication between an iPhone user and Android has remained fairly old-fashioned with no meaningful support for on-message reactions while using SMS. That seemed to be changing last week when Google was found to be testing the ability to react to SMS texts sent from an iPhone user. The feature now appears to be rolling out more widely with some users seeing changes to how their reactions appear.

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Some Google Messages users can now long-press a text they’ve received and select from up to seven preset emoji reactions — identical to how it works within an RCS conversation. 9to5Google has heard from a couple of users who have seen the feature so far, suggesting that a wider rollout is imminent. Google Message users on SMS will be able to see the reaction as it was designed to be placed, at the bottom-right corner of their original message. Those who aren’t using either Google Messages or RCS, the reaction is displayed as a separate message much like how it used to be for Android recipients of iMessage reactions until fairly recently. At least the emoji are shown as they are and not translated into words in this case.

This isn’t the best possible solution to have SMS reactions become truly platform-agnostic, but it’s certainly a start. At the moment, it’s pretty clear that Apple is unwilling to give in as Google continues to do most of the groundwork to bridge the gap between the two competing mobile platforms.

At the recently concluded Code Conference 2022, Apple CEO Tim Cook shut down any prospects of the company adopting RCS. In response to a question about enhancing SMS communication between Android and iOS users, Cook said, “I don’t hear our users asking that we put a lot of energy on that at this point.“Perhaps all the money Google has spent to convince Apple to adopt RCS was for nothing. For what it’s worth, both companies aren’t giving up their positions.

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