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Google’s iMessage rival is finally getting end-to-end encryption

Published Nov 20th, 2020 6:50AM EST
Image: Google

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  • Google announced that the Messages app is available worldwide, bringing RCS texting in markets that did not support it before.
  • Messages is Google’s latest answer to Apple’s iMessage, offering almost the same suite of features.
  • One notable difference concerns the end-to-end encryption, which is not available on Android. But Google says that it will start rolling it out in beta form this year.

iMessage is one of the best products Apple came up with since the introduction of the iPhone, a rich chat platform that replaced SMS messaging years ago. iMessage comes with end-to-end encryption that makes it impossible for anyone to access chat data, and works on all of Apple’s devices, including the iPad and Mac. iMessage doesn’t have Android support, and Google has been trying for years to create a compelling alternative. After many failures, Google finally launched its RCS messaging system that’s the closest Android has to an iMessage rival. RCS is supported by carriers, replaces regular text messaging, and comes with various features seen in iMessage and other popular instant messengers. But Messages by Google launched without end-to-end encryption support, which makes the app less secure than iMessage. Google is finally ready to fix all of that, and the company will soon start rolling out end-to-end encryption to users.

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Google confirmed on Thursday that RCS is now available globally. The app was launched in partnership with certain carriers in certain countries in the past few years, but the app can now be downloaded anywhere in the world.

Google says that “anyone using Messages around the world has access to modern chat features either from their carrier or directly from Google.” It’s not exactly anyone, according to a footnote that says RCS availability “depends on your device and service provider.” Still, coverage should be significantly expanded.

The end-to-end encryption will protect one-on-one RCS conversations between people using Messages initially. “End-to-end encryption ensures that no one, including Google and third parties, can read the content of your messages as they travel between your phone and the phone of the person you’re messaging,” Google explains.

The feature will roll out to beta testers this month and continue next year. Google says that the eligible conversations will be upgraded automatically to end-to-end encryption when the feature is available.

However, unlike iMessage, there is one caveat here. Google makes it clear that end-to-end encryption is only available if both people use the Messages app. Android allows people to choose their default messaging app, so you’ll have to install Messages and have chat features to take advantage of full encryption in the future. Google set up a support page that explains everything you need to know about end-to-end encryption on Messages.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.