Google Messages starts testing end-to-end encryption for RCS group texts

It couldn't resist taking a dig at Apple's lack of RCS support, though.


Google is starting to test end-to-end encryption (E2EE) in Messages for RCS group chats on Android. Some users who are enrolled in the Messages open beta program will gain access in the coming weeks ahead of a broader rollout. The company said during its I/O 2022 developer conference that an E2EE beta for group chats would be available by the end of this year.

The move comes 18 months after Google Messages started offering E2EE for one-on-one conversations to shield chats from prying eyes. It started testing E2EE in Messages in November 2020, so it may be several months before the privacy feature is enabled for all group chats.

Screenshot of a Google Messages group chat with end-to-end-encryption enabled.
Screenshot of a Google Messages group chat with end-to-end-encryption enabled. (Engadget)

Many carriers and phone manufacturers have gotten on board with RCS over the last several years to offer features such as high-quality photos and videos, read receipts and E2EE. The 30-year-old SMS format doesn't support any of those. Still, there's one company that's continuing to turn its nose up at RCS — Apple, which is staying cozy inside the walled garden of iMessage.

Google has been publicly pleading with Apple to adopt RCS but so far those efforts haven't proven fruitful. In September, Apple CEO Tim Cook jokingly suggested that iOS users who are having trouble sending videos to a loved one with an Android device should just buy them an iPhone.

Nevertheless, Google has been trying to improve iOS and Android messaging interoperability, and it made another attempt to get Apple onboard with RCS in a blog post. "Today, all of the major mobile carriers and manufacturers have adopted RCS as the standard — except for Apple," Messages group product manager Neena Budhiraja wrote. "Apple refuses to adopt RCS and continues to rely on SMS when people with iPhones message people with Android phones, which means their texting is stuck in the 1990s."

Still, there are companies that are working on ways to make iMessage accessible on other devices. Just this week, the developers of an app called Sunbird claim to have gotten iMessage to work on Android.