Ever since smartphones introduced threaded messaging and internet texting services like WhatsApp, the death of SMS has been slow and steady. In countries like the US, Apple iMessage is the preferred messaging app of choice, with its blue bubbles and internet connection.
For those who text using apps like Samsung Messages or Google Messages, SMS is still a thing. But it’s an outdated protocol that uses 2G and 3G networks, and more importantly is not fully secure. It’s not encrypted, so technically speaking your texts can be intercepted and read.
Rich Communications Services (RCS) could be the successor to SMS if the mobile industry could sort itself out and agree a standard. It is preferable to SMS because, as the name suggests, it supports a richer form of messaging and could include GIFs, images and multimedia links in a standardised format.
The team at 9to5Google have pored over an APKMirror-sourced build of Google Messages v6.2 and have found evidence that the app is working to build end-to-end encryption in Google messages. This is great news, but it’s unlikely that the Android-using public would ever unanimously decide to use the same texting app.
It’s more likely that encryption would work for RCS chats if the two people were using the same app, and several OEMs messaging apps could adopt the new standard. In this case, it’d be Google’s Messages app, which any Android phone can download and use instead of the default one that ships with the phone.
The version of the app where evidence of this type of encryption was found should only have been for Google employees to test, so it doesn’t mean it’ll arrive for the public any time soon – but it’s a small indication that companies are working behind the scene to bring a better native texting experience to Android phones after years of them jealously looking over at iMessage.