There's a new version of Android Messages rolling out to our phones. So far, we haven't seen any significant changes to the UI, but huge things are happening under the surface. A teardown reveals Google is getting ready to launch a web interface that would allow users to pair their phones with a computer for all of their texting needs. Google may also be planning to offer its own enhanced chat features to work with RCS messaging. And finally, it looks like we'll be able to buy things from companies right from within Android Messages. Grab the APK at the bottom of the post if you'd like to get your hands on it before everybody else.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.
Messages for web
You've seen it done for Allo, and now it's going to happen for Android Messages! Google is developing a web interface to run on a desktop or laptop, and it will pair with your phone for sending messages. Internally, the codename for this feature is "Ditto," but it looks like it will be labeled "Messages for web" when it launches.
Android Messages will share the same basic setup procedure with Allo. You'll be guided to visit a website on the computer you want to pair with your phone, then simply scan a QR code. Once that's done, you'll be able to send and receive messages in the web interface and it will link with the phone to do the actual SMS/MMS/RCS(?) communication through your carrier.
<string name="action_scan_qr_code">Messages for web</string>
<string name="qr_welcome_banner_url_text">On your computer, go to %s</string>
<string name="qr_welcome_button_text">Scan QR code</string>
<string name="qr_welcome_bottom_text">Use your phone to scan the QR code on your computer screen</string>
<string name="qr_code_scanner_hint_text">Scan the QR code shown on <b>%s</b></string>
<string name="qr_simplified_welcome_banner_url_text">Go to <b>%s</b> on your computer</string>
<string name="qr_success_text_view">You\'re all set!</string>
<string name="invalid_qr_code_dialog_title">Incorrect code</string>
<string name="invalid_qr_code_dialog_message">To sign in, scan the QR code on %s</string>
<string name="failed_qr_pairing_dialog_message">Something went wrong. Try again in a few minutes.</string>
<activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.messaging.ui.ditto.DittoActivity" android:exported="false" android:parentActivityName="com.google.android.apps.messaging.ui.conversationlist.ConversationListActivity" android:theme="@style/BugleTheme" />
<service android:name="com.google.android.apps.messaging.shared.net.DittoForegroundService" android:exported="false" />
Just like Allo, you'll be able to see a list of signed in computers and disconnect from one or all of them at any time. Note that the text clearly refers to multiple computers, so you'll be free to pair both a laptop and desktop.
<string name="paired_desktops_header_text">Signed in computers</string>
<string name="paired_desktops_last_connection_time">Last active %s</string>
<string name="qr_delete_all_paired_desktops_button_text">Sign out all computers</string>
<string name="delete_all_paired_desktops_dialog_title">Sign out of all computers?</string>
<string name="delete_paired_desktop_button_content_description">Delete paired desktop: %s</string>
<string name="delete_paired_desktop_dialog_title">Sign out from %s?</string>
<string name="delete_paired_desktop_positive_button_text">Sign out</string>
I can't say with any certainty that all mainstream browsers will be supported right away, but all of them are named, so most users should be covered.
<string name="desktop_browser_type_ie">Internet Explorer</string>
As a minor implementation note, there will be a new notification channel and a "Connected to desktop" notification when the pairings are made.
<string name="ditto_foreground_service_notification_title">Connected to desktop</string>
Needless to say, this could be very convenient. While there is a lot of controversy over Allo's use of the same feature, it's something many of us have wanted to see in Android Messages, and there are several third-party services that offer features similar to this because there is some demand. I'll leave the inevitable comparisons to iMessage for people to discuss in the comments below.
RCS Promos, Google-enhanced chat, and more
Another major move appears to be happening with RCS, and it looks like Google may be doing more than just providing support. A lot of new promotional text has been added to encourage people to "text over Wi-Fi" and suggesting that they "upgrade" immediately.
Where things get really interesting is that Google is offering to provide some of the services rather than leaving them up to carriers. One line even specifies that "chat features are powered by Google," which makes it sound like Google may be offering to act as the intermediary for your messaging. RCS supports replacing your carrier's services with another provider, so it's likely the Android Messages app itself will promote switching to Google's services.
<string name="conversation_list_fast_track_popup_title">New! Text over Wi‑Fi and data</string>
<string name="conversation_list_fast_track_paragraph">Plus get other chat features from Google like high-quality photo sharing. By continuing, you agree to the %1$s.</string>
<string name="conversation_list_fast_track_paragraph_multi_sim">Plus get other chat features from Google on \"%1$s\" (SIM %2$d). By continuing, you agree to the %3$s.</string>
<string name="settings_fast_track_dialog_title">Enable chat features?</string>
<string name="setting_fast_track_body">Chat features are powered by Google. By continuing, you accept the %1$s.</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_button_positive_over_wifi">Text Over Wi-Fi</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_button_positive_upgrade_now">Upgrade Now</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_subtitle">Turn on chat features like messaging over Wi-Fi and more</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_subtitle_1">Plus you can text over Wi-Fi, share high-quality photos, and more</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_subtitle_2">Plus you can share high-quality photos and more</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_subtitle_3">Plus you can text over Wi-Fi, see when friends read your messages, and more</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_subtitle_4">Upgrade messages to get the latest texting features</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_title_1">New! See when friends are typing</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_title_2">New! Text over Wi-Fi and data</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_title_3">New! Share high-quality photos</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_title_4">Want to text over Wi-Fi?</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_button_negative_sms_only">Use SMS Only</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_button_negative_no_sms_only">No, Use SMS Only</string>
<string name="conversation_list_rcs_promo_button_negative_dont_upgrade">Don\'t Upgrade App</string>
<string name="fast_track_negative_button_text">NO THANKS</string>
<string name="fast_track_popup_accepted_snack_bar_text">We\'ll let you know when chat features are ready.</string>
<string name="fast_track_popup_declined_snack_bar_text">You can turn on chat features anytime in Settings.</string>
<string name="fast_track_positive_button_text">YES, I\'M IN</string>
<item quantity="other">Seen by %s</item>
<item quantity="one">Seen by %s</item>
<string name="message_status_media_seen_by_all">Seen by all</string>
There's a lot of text in that block, but most of it is purely promotional. It describes features that are already largely familiar as capabilities of RCS, including texting through a data connection, seeing messaging status (if somebody is typing) and read receipts, and sending photos. Notably, Google does add a lot of emphasis that if it's handling the photos, that will be "high-quality."
Again, I'll leave the incredibly obvious iMessage comparisons for the comments below...
Purchases and payments
Finally, it looks like Android Messages may become a place to make purchases. Back in November, Google added support for sending money to friends with the use of Google Wallet, but that wasn't really suited for business use.
Some new text in the app indicates that Google is going to angle Android Messages to also support purchases. The theme of the new strings is fairly unmistakeable, including common consumer terms like 'checkout' and 'order summary.' Another key clue is the activity where these are displayed, which is named messaging.ui.businesspayments.PaymentsSummaryActivity.
<string name="wallet_buy_button_place_holder">Buy with Google</string>
<string name="rbm_payments_activity_name">Payments Summary</string>
<string name="rbm_payments_summary_order_title">Order summary</string>
<string name="conversation_suggestion_payment_request_action">Payment request action</string>
<activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.messaging.ui.businesspayments.PaymentsSummaryActivity" android:configChanges="keyboardHidden|orientation|screenSize" android:exported="false" android:label="@string/rbm_payments_activity_name" android:parentActivityName="com.google.android.apps.messaging.ui.conversation.ConversationActivity" android:screenOrientation="user" android:theme="@style/BugleTheme" />
There's less information to share on this one, but we'll obviously keep an eye out for more details. Gotta say, this isn't something I would have expected to see in my texting app.
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.