The Google Messages update translates iMessage responses for Android users


Andrew Cunningham

Aside from the lack of support for end-to-end encryption, all of the iOS features that are lost in translation are one of the most annoying things for Apple iPhone users when communicating with Android users via SMS. If a visual effect translates to a blank “(sent with balloons)” it will ruin the impact you wanted the effect to have and clutter your message history with redundant text.

On this second front, Apple’s tapback function is particularly annoying. When using iMessage, that short list of half a dozen responses is a handy way to show affirmation or joy, or just to put a message thread at the top of the list. On Android phones, every single tapback generates a completely new text block with a text description of the reaction and the entire original text. As a fallback option for non-smartphones or as an accessibility feature, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it can quickly make SMS group text threads messy and unreadable for Android users.


A new update to the Google Messages app, discovered by 9to5Google over the weekend and now appears to be available to some Android users, addresses this issue by translating tapback responses into emoji responses. Android devices using the Messages app have been able to send each other emoji responses for over a year, but this is Google’s first attempt at mapping Apple’s response mechanism to its own.

Of course, in an ideal world, the end-to-end solution to this communication problem would be if Apple equips iPhones with RCS messaging support, or makes iMessage an open standard, or for Apple and Google and the world’s phone providers to get a single one on the same page Standard that everyone can support. In the meantime, at least a simple “thumbs up” answer can be seen and understood regardless of which smartphone ecosystem you’re embedded in.