Launch of end-to-end encrypted group chats in Google Messages

It’s common knowledge that short message service (SMS) is on the decline, and the focus of smartphone development over the past fifteen years has been on finding a suitable replacement. While much of the world has advanced beyond SMS with the help of third-party apps like WhatsApp or Signal, we in the US are still stuck with the old standard. Google has spent the better part of the last three years attempting to convince a specific corporation to use RCS as a substitute, and it has been successful. Android users are finally getting a much-requested security enhancement in time for SMS’s 30th anniversary.

All users of the Play Store programme will soon have a safer experience, as Google has now announced that end-to-end encryption for group conversations is entering beta testing. Seven months after Google announced encrypted group chats on stage at I/O, and weeks after users observed glitched messages and strings of code hinting to a future launch, Google has decided to implement this feature.

These encrypted discussions are immediately added to compatible threads, exactly as RCS messages for one-on-one conversations. Once enabled, you’ll notice a lock icon next to your device’s send button. As soon as the function is available on a user’s smartphone, they will receive a notification, and judging by the reaction on social media, this is occurring very soon. Mishaal Rahman of revealed the E2EE rollout to Messages users in a series of screenshots posted late Thursday. All members of a group need to have the beta version of the app (currently 20221129) and the most recent version of Play Services for communications to be encrypted.

In this case, every second counts. It’s SMS’s 30th birthday today, and in a blog post commemorating the milestone, Google also declares that SMS as we know it must come to an end. All of this is part of the company’s continuing “Get the Message” campaign, which demands that Apple implement RCS on iOS to facilitate high-level, encrypted messaging between the two systems. It comes as no surprise that Apple is cool on the concept of a global standard to exist alongside iMessage.

In addition to these changes, Google has also announced that Messages will soon support a wider variety of emoji reactions. Just as we speculated a few months ago, this feature would allow you to pick any emoji for use in text replies.

Google Messages and its RCS functionality feel much more complete now that encrypted group chats are being rolled out. Of course, there are a lot of alternative encrypted messaging systems you might check out if you’d rather communicate with third-party services or if you just don’t like the user experience Google offers. Moreover, if you’re not interested in joining the beta test but still want access to the functionality, you may try your luck.