RCS is officially big. 1 billion monthly active users big, in fact. Google announced the milestone today, and to celebrate it’s giving the Messages app 7 new features. These will apparently “help your personality shine through”. They won’t make RCS bubbles blue on iOS, however.
RCS, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is a new standard that’s supposed to replace the antiquated SMS and MMS, Google says, although those are still used as backup, so not that much “replace” as “enhance”. Anyway, the point is it’s like iMessage but for Android phones.
Google has been pushing it a lot – and we mean a lot – in recent years, and it seems like its efforts have not been in vain at all. RCS has typing indicators, read receipts, threaded replies, high quality media sharing, improved group chats, and better privacy.
Now let’s get to the new features. First, Photomoji. As the name implies, this lets you make a photo into a reaction by using on-device Google AI. All of these creations are then saved in a special tab for when you want to reuse them. Also, your friends in group chats can use any Photomoji you sent as well.
Next up, Voice Moods. These are animated emoji superimposed over a voice message, in order to express, visually, how you’re feeling in that moment. The voice message bitrate and sampling rate have also been increased for an improvement in perceived quality.
Screen Effects enable vibrant animations to take over the whole screen, when you type specific messages like “it’s snowing” or “I love you”, for example. There are more than 15 of these, but they’re hidden, so Google wants us to discover them.
Next, Custom Bubbles – you’ll never be able to do this on iMessage, that’s for sure. You can customize the bubble color and background for any of your conversations. You can pick a different color for every chat if you want – Facebook Messenger themes say hi.
Reaction Effects inject “more life into your conversations”, Google says. It works on the ten most popular emoji, and when you react with one of them, the reaction will animate over the message you’re reacting to.
Animated Emoji are just that – visual effects for specific emoji, which trigger when you only send that specific emoji – WhatsApp has something similar, for example.
Finally, Google Messages now has Profiles. You can personalize your profile name and picture that will then accompany your phone number. This, the company says, “addresses the problem of receiving messages from phone numbers not saved in your contacts”, and can be particularly useful in group chats so you know who all of the members are.
And now for the bummer. These new features are first going to be made available in the beta version of Messages, and not even all of them at once. “Many” of these features, Google says, will be available in the beta channel today. We’re not sure which, and the company hasn’t clarified, so who knows. Hopefully it won’t take long for them to trickle down into the stable channel.