To commemorate one billion monthly active users, Google is introducing several new customization options on its Messages app.
What’s particularly interesting about the update is that a few of the features are reminiscent of what you find on Apple’s own Messages app. For example, you have Photomoji, allowing you to clip specific parts in a photograph and use them as emoji reactions. iOS 17 has something similar called Stickers. In Google Messages, cutouts are “saved in a special tab for reuse”, plus other people in a group chat can use the same Photomojis at any time.
The similarities don’t stop there. Google Messages is adding Profiles that let users create an introductory biography about themselves alongside their name and a picture. Its iOS counterpart would be Contact Poster. In addition, the app will now have animated Screen Effects akin to the message animations on iPhone. Unlike iOS, you can’t activate the colorful displays whenever you want as Google’s rendition requires you to enter specific “prompt words”. The full list of prompts isn’t in the announcement, although it does mention two.
Typing in “I love you” will launch a bunch of hearts. Entering “it’s snowing” would presumably cause snowflakes to fall from the top. There wasn’t a demo showcasing the latter so we can’t say for sure.
Of course, the update isn’t only about copying Apple.
There are Voice Moods that’ll let you slap an emoji onto a voice recording, giving it extra visual flair. Additionally, Google states it’ll be “increasing the bitrate and sampling rate” on vocal messages to improve audio quality. Next, you can change the color scheme of a chat, namely the text bubbles and background, to whatever you want via Custom Bubbles. This can help you differentiate conversations so you don’t accidentally send the wrong text to your mom when it was meant for a friend.
The last two aren’t as impactful, but they can add some nice flourishes to a chat. Now when you react to a message with an emoji, a short animation called a Reaction Effect will play at the same time. Also, standalone emojis sent through the app will sport extra visual effects like sparkles.
Once you get the patch, you can try out most of these features so keep an eye out for when it eventually arrives. The two outliers are Voice Moods and Reaction Effects; both of which are currently in beta. To try those out, you’ll have to become a beta tester for Google Messages, according to the official support page.
Besides the Messages update, Google is adding new features to other Android platforms. A lot is being implemented so we’re only going to mention the more impactful additions.
Moving forward, smartwatches running Wear OS can now control more smart appliances like vacuums and groups of smart lights. The TalkBack tool is being given an AI voice that’ll read out text descriptions to help blind people understand the content in front of them. And finally, Live Caption on smartphones will be available in more languages.
Be sure to check out TechRadar’s list of the best Android phones for 2023.