Android Gets Major Updates to Messages, Much More

Posted on March 10, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Google Photos with 12 Comments

Google today announced several major functional changes to Android, including updates to Messages, Photos, and more.

“The Android team has been busy working on a suite of updates that add new dimensions to the apps you already love,” Google product manager Phil Ou writes in the announcement post. “From huge updates to messaging (including more connection with your iPhone friends) to powerful photo editing tools and even smarter ways to pay for parking, these upgrades bring more helpful technology to messaging, entertainment, and more.”

Here’s what’s new.

iPhone-compatible reactions in Messages. The Google Messages app now correctly displays reactions from iPhone users as emojis. This is available now in English, with additional languages to follow, Google says.

Improved photo sharing in Messages. With Google Photos integration in Messages, users can now share higher-resolution photos than are possible with SMS, which is what it normally defaults to when you share with an iPhone user. Since the RCS standard supports high-resolution photo sharing, Google is explicitly “encouraging Apple to join the rest of the mobile industry and adopt RCS so that we can make messaging better and more secure, no matter what device you choose.”

Improved Messages organization. Messages will now sort your messages into Personal and Business views. And you can now create one-time password messages that are automatically deleted after 24 hours to help reduce clutter further in the U.S. (This was originally launched in India.)

Nudges in Messages. Messages will now send you nudges to remind you to reply to messages you may have missed or need to follow up on. This is rolling out first to English users worldwide.

Celebration reminders in Messages. Messages will now remind you when it’s a contact’s birthday.

Grammar correction in Gboard. Google’s keyboard for Android already provides spell checking, but now it provides grammar checking too.

Live Transcribe when offline. Live Transcribe provides real-time speech-to-text captions to enable everyday in-person conversations between people who are deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing, Google says. But now the app now offers an offline mode for when Wi-Fi and data aren’t available, like on an airplane, in the subway, or in other areas without consistent internet access.

Portrait blur in Google Photos. Google Photos for Android will soon be updated so that you can add a portrait blur effect to any photo, no matter when or how it was taken.

Highlights in Google TV. Google’s entertainment app is picking up a pointless news feed called Highlights.

Pay for parking with Google Assistant. Google Assistant is integrating with Google Pay so you can now pay for parking, check your parking status, and extend your parking using your voice. Just say, “Hey Google, pay for parking” once you’ve parked, and follow Assistant prompts to pay from your phone. Or say “Hey Google, parking status” or “Hey Google, extend parking” to perform those options. This is available in ParkMobile street parking zones in over 400 cities in the U.S., Google says.

New screen time widget. A new screen time widget will offer a glimpse into three apps you use the most each day, and let you quickly access Digital Wellbeing, where you can set daily timers for your apps, configure focus mode, and configure bedtime mode.

Nearby share improvements. Nearby share can now help you share photos, videos, documents, links, audio files, or folders with multiple people, instead of just one at a time.

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Comments (12)

12 responses to “Android Gets Major Updates to Messages, Much More”

  1. scovious

    Do we have to go into Messages settings and "enable chat features" for this to work?

    I don't agree to Google's privacy policy and don't want them interpreting, parsing or categorizing my private communications to feed into their Ad empire or existing profiles of me or my family. It's the reason I don't use Gmail, and I wonder if they are hiding these updates behind a Trojan horse into our private lives.

    It would be uncharacteristically generous of them to include the update for all people and not just those ignorant or apathetic of Google's intrusive principals.

    • jgraebner

      If you are that worried about, you probably shouldn't be using Android.

      • Bart

        So, you are telling him to buy an excessivly expensive iPhone?

        Not much of a proposition IMHO.

        • yoshi

          You know, I see this type of response a lot when it comes to iPhone. But Apple covers a range of prices with their iPhone lineup that pretty much matches Android counterparts.

          Maybe outside of the US the price differences are greater? I'm honestly curious.

      • retcable

        Samsung's new top of the line phone is actually MORE expensive than the top of the line iPhone, so this is a false argument.

  2. JerryH

    Some of this is just strange - I already get reminders from Calendar or maybe it is just from Android itself when it is a contact's birthday. So now I have to get two reminders for each birthday? And the portrait blur was already there - maybe it was a Pixel only thing? But we already had it.

  3. red.radar

    I kinda of revel in the fact that Apple's slow and intentional absence of RCS just has Google incensed.

    I know its trollish of me but at the end of the day adoption of RCS is really only a minor improvement. Sure better quality photos can be sent between platforms, but until the soluiton includes video I am not going too get excited enough to care about this fight.

    I rather just leave things as they are until RCS advances a little more.

  4. rosyna

    Google is explicitly “encouraging Apple to join the rest of the mobile industry and adopt RCS so that we can make messaging better and more secure, no matter what device you choose.”

    This is especially self-serving as there are zero non-Google RCS services in the US (and in many other countries). All the carriers use Google’s Jibe Cloud service to handle RCS.

    • pungkuss

      This is not true,,, in fact the biggest phone on android (S22) just announced RCS where the backend was not Google, even though they are using Google Messages.

  5. stevem

    It's been years since I sent a text message, or received one that wasn't from a company. Pretty much all my contacts are UK based, and every single one uses WhatsApp. Nobody even mentions an alternative way to send messages, texts, photos or videos etc. A growing number are now using WhatsApp for voice calls as well now.

    • rosyna

      In the US, text messages are really strong as carriers in the US eliminated the per-SMS fee (and had always allowed across-carrier SMS) long before alternatives like WhatsApp existed. WhatsApp gained popularity in countries that charged for SMS or didn’t allow SMS messages to travel across carrier or country borders.