Google is giving its default messaging app a big update that will make it more useful. The Android phone maker is adding features that make it easier to watch YouTube videos in-app, respond to individual messages in a chain of conversations, and even schedule reminders. The company also wants to push the use of RCS, the standardized version of SMS that’s used by carriers for texting over Wi-Fi, with Messages.
The new Messages update is now rolling out to Pixel devices and will be available for the Pixel 6, Pixel 6A, Pixel 7 series, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 series and Galaxy Z Fold 4, as well as the Moto E4. Among other things, it fixes an annoying issue where iMessage reactions weren’t showing up as emoji on Android.
In a major shift from its previous incarnation, Messages now offers an in-line reply option to address specific messages in a conversation rather than having to scroll up to find the right one. This is similar to what Apple’s iMessage app has had for years.
Another improvement is the ability to zoom into individual conversation text. This makes it easier to read smaller text and more easily spot things like links and hashtags. It’s a feature iMessage has had for a long time, but it’s now available to any Android user.
Google is trying to encourage a wider adoption of RCS in its Messages update by adding the ability to share high-quality video messages. Until now, most of us have been forced to use MMS to send video, which significantly reduces quality. Messages by Google will now let you share the same video content as an RCS message, and it will automatically transcribe the audio to show what was said. This will only work if both senders and recipients are using RCS.
Lastly, the Messages by Google app is adding some machine learning tricks to improve its efficiency. It can now recognize important context in a chat and will suggest “starring” that message, scheduling a Meet call, or creating a calendar event. It’s a small but helpful touch that should save people the trouble of having to search for this information elsewhere.
Finally, the Messages by Google app will now sort its inbox into Personal and Business chats so users can more quickly find the right message or conversation. There’s also a new “gentle nudge” that can remind you to respond to certain messages or take care of something you’ve been procrastinating on.