The Google Messages app on Android is rolling out end-to-end encryption support for group chats. Encryption was already available for one-on-one chats via the RCS messaging standard that carriers are pushing as a replacement for SMS.
Google is notorious for having developed multiple messaging apps with overlapping features, but Google Messages is now the company’s main messaging platform for the Android ecosystem. However, Google embracing the carrier-supported RCS standard means that it can’t innovate as fast as iMessage, WhatsApp, or other proprietary messaging apps that added encryption support years ago.
Encryption for group chats is currently available as beta feature, and you’ll need to join the open beta program for Google Messages to test it. Google has yet to share an ETA for when the feature will go out of beta.
The main issue with Google Messages encryption is that it doesn’t work with messages sent to iPhone users. “Apple refuses to adopt RCS and continues to rely on SMS when people with iPhones message people with Android phones, which means their texting is stuck in the 1990s,” Google emphasized in its announcement.
In addition to adding encryption support for group chats, Google Messages will also soon let users react to RCS messages with any emoji. Yesterday, Google also announced several Android updates coming in December including a new YouTube Search widget, Reading Mode, and sharing support for digital car keys.