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Google Messages might auto-update your MMS chats to RCS (APK teardown)

Apple rolling out RCS seems to be playing a role here.
By

Published onJuly 3, 2024

Google Messages app open on smartphone (1)
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • Google Messages could start changing your old MMS group chats to RCS.
  • Strings of code suggest users will be able to send sharper photos and videos with reactions.
  • Two flags need to be activated to enable the feature for now.

After years of being hassled about it, Apple is finally adding RCS to iMessage. Now Google is taking the opportunity to update old cross-platform chats to RCS.

An APK teardown helps predict features that may arrive on a service in the future based on work-in-progress code. However, it is possible that such predicted features may not make it to a public release.

If you participated in a group chat that had both iPhone and Android users, then the entire conversation was converted into SMS and MMS. But strings of code found in the Google Messages app (version messages.android_20240702_01_RC00.phone_samsung_openbeta_dynamic) suggest these old conversations will be transformed into RCS.

In the latest beta, we found references to upgrading old chats. There are two flags needed to enable the feature:

bugle.enable_mms_group_upgrade_ui_home_screen
bugle.enable_mms_group_upgrade_ui_conversation_screen

According to the code, the user would be informed with a popup that “You’ve got upgraded chats” if a conversation was upgraded. They would also be told that they can “Send sharper photos and videos with reactions.”

Code
<string name="upgraded_group_label">Upgraded chat</string>
<string name="group_upgrade_popup_title">You've got upgraded chats</string>
<string name="group_upgrade_popup_description">Send sharper photos and videos with reactions — free over wifi. %1$s</string>
<string name="group_upgrade_close_button_icon_description">Close dialog</string>
<string name="group_upgrade_about_rcs_link">About cross-platform RCS chats</string>

Currently, RCS support is only available on iPhones in the iOS 18 beta. There’s no exact date yet for when Apple will roll out the feature widely. However, it’s expected to arrive in the fall along with the release of the stable version of iOS 18. Also, it should be noted that this would also work with non-RCS chats between Android phones if, for example, one person in the chat is using an app that doesn’t support RCS. But it’s clear iPhone support for RCS is almost certainly the big motivator here.

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