Google Messages will now be encrypted by default when messaging between Android devices, the company said in a blog post Tuesday.
Previously, it was an option to encrypt your Google Messages, but now it’s set to default. This means that when sending texts between two Android devices, including in group chats, outside actors won’t be able to view or monitor your messages. Encrypted messaging is already the default on services like WhatsApp, Signal, Telegram and Apple’s iMessage.
Unfortunately, text messages between iPhone and Android users still lack this encryption. That’s because Apple uses iMessage as the default messaging app, which isn’t available on Android. For encrypted messaging between Android and iPhone, it’s best to use a third-party instant messaging app instead.
Google’s push to make Messages encrypted by default is part of a campaign to get the larger phone industry on board with RCS, or rich communication services. In the early days of cellphone communication, standard SMS text messages were an easy way to communicate without having to jump on a phone call. But as people’s needs became more dynamic, with longer posts, images and videos, SMS didn’t have the baked-in infrastructure to handle these demands. It’s why Apple moved away from standard messages to iMessage in 2011, where larger messages and files could go through its servers. To make the transition easy, Apple made iMessage the default app on iPhones, allowing it to handle both iMessages and standard text messages.
This has meant, however, that those messaging iPhone users from non-Apple devices don’t have their messages encrypted, nor are they able to share pictures or jump into group chats as easily. Their messages also appear in green bubbles.
Still, SMS needs to be phased out. RCS is a standard that Google, Samsung and phone carriers are on board with. Apple has been holding out, citing a lack of incentive or demand from its users. And in court filings revealed during the Apple vs. Epic Games trial, we learned that iMessage is a core reason why people don’t switch from iPhone.
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