Google Messages gets a ton of new features, and one might annoy iPhone users

Google Messages app on the Galaxy S22 Ultra
(Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google is updating the Messages app with new features over the coming weeks to enhance RCS and even SMS chats.
  • Users will be able to respond to individual messages in a thread and set reminders to come back to a message later.
  • Messages will suggest certain actions such as video calls, calendar entries, or starring important messages.
  • Other features include SMS reactions, chats with businesses, picture-in-picture YouTube videos, and the expansion of Voice Message Transcriptions to more phones.

Google may not have succeeded in getting Apple to adopt RCS in iMessage, but that isn't stopping the search giant as it continues improving the Messages app on Android. On Thursday, Google announced a series of updates coming to the app that should make it more fun and helpful for users, and perhaps a little less fun for iPhone users.

Swipe to Reply

Direct responses are something that users have previously spotted in the Messages app, although it was seemingly limited to a small number of users. The company is officially announcing the feature, which will be available to users texting via RCS messaging. Swipe or press and hold a message to reply and a preview of the message will appear above your response. This way, you can better keep track of conversations, particularly in group messaging.

Google Messages direct reply

(Image credit: Google)

Smart suggestions

That said, for users that may not have the time to respond immediately, Google is adding the ability to set reminders on messages. That way, you can follow up later when you have the time. And for those important messages that may contain information like addresses that you might want to remember, Google Messages will suggest starring those messages so you can quickly refer to them.

Other smart suggestions coming to Google Messages include adding an event to Google Calendar if you receive information like a date and time or hopping into Google Meet call if the app recognizes someone wants to talk.

A starred message on Google Messages

(Image credit: Google)

React to SMS messages from iPhones

Another feature some users have noticed is the ability to react to SMS messages. Similar to how users on RCS can react to texts, Google is now giving users this ability with SMS messages, meaning they'll have a bit more of a consistent experience when receiving messages from iPhone users.

That said, the experience isn't all perfect, as iOS may not be able to properly translate the reactions. This, these users will receive a message to how Android used to perceive iMessage reactions. That means iPhone users will see a message like "x person liked 'text,'" at least until Apple decides to do something about it (however unlikely that may be).

Reacting to SMS on Google Messages

(Image credit: Google)

Talk business, in first class

Google Messages updates also extend to businesses. Google says it is experimenting with letting users chat with companies directly from the app. The conversation could be initiated from a "Chat" icon on Search or Maps when searching for a business, and it would carry out through Google Messages. This isn't too far off from what other messaging apps offer, although Google says it will test this only in some countries.

Additionally, Google has partnered with United Airlines to offer free texting via RCS through United WiFi. It's not unlike the free texting T-Mobile offers to its subscribers, although it is seemingly limited to RCS chats. Google says this will be available in the fall for most carriers, and it hopes to partner with more airlines in the future.

Texting during a flight using RCS on Google Messages

(Image credit: Google)

Expanding on some features

Lastly, Google is expanding on a couple of existing features. Users will soon be able to watch YouTube videos directly from the Messages app. The company already offers YouTube video previews in the app, although this appears to be more of a picture-in-picture experience, allowing you to watch as your text and scroll within a thread.

Voice Message Transcription, an impressive AI feature announced alongside the Pixel 7 series, is also coming to more smartphones, including the Pixel 6 series, Galaxy S22 series, and the Galaxy Z Fold 4.

Fresh Material You icons

These new features will arrive on Google Messages in the coming weeks, along with brand new icons that Google is rolling out for Messages, Phone, and Contacts. These new icons adapt to Material You themes and feature an overlapping design, meant to be "instantly recognizable" and "reflect today's modern messaging experience."

Google's new app icons for Messages, Phone, and Contacts

(Image credit: Google)