It's another busy Wednesday as Google rolls out an update to the Android Messages app. Version 3.1 doesn't appear to have any functional or visual changes, but there are some interesting details about things to come. The upcoming web chat interface is still in progress, but it's sporting a slightly different name than when we last discussed it. There's a GIF browser in the works for those that don't have one in their keyboard. And there may be some new features destined for Android Messages that will be able to benefit from connecting a Google account. We're still watching for any live changes, so let us know if you stumble across anything interesting!
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.
Follow-up: Android Messages for Web
We've known for a couple of months that Google is going to launch an Allo-like web interface for texting through Android Messages. The latest update doesn't automatically add the functionality, though we might just be waiting for Google to launch it when the time is right, much like we saw with Allo.
While the latest update doesn't instantly launch support for the web interface, it does include a few new lines of text with an updated name. The original "Messages for Web" title has been updated to read "Android Messages for web."
<string name="conversation_list_ditto_popup_title">New! Text on your computer</string>
<string name="conversation_list_ditto_popup_paragraph">Use Android Messages for web</string>
<string name="conversation_list_ditto_popup_negative">NOT NOW</string>
<string name="conversation_list_ditto_popup_positive">TRY IT</string>
Hopefully we're not too far from using Android Messages for web rather than just talking about its name. As is often the case, the addition of promo text like this is often a sign that a product or feature is fairly close to launch.
Connecting a Google account
Also added in this update is the workflow for attaching a Google account to Android Messages. The reason for doing so is a pretty vague, only explained by a single line offering "a more personalized experience." The entry point will appear at the bottom of the Settings screen, right after the Advanced group.
<string name="connect_to_gaia_title">Connect your Google Account</string>
<string name="account_selected">account selected</string>
<string name="google_account_pref_title">Google Account</string>
<string name="google_profile_photo">Google profile photo</string>
<string name="link_gaia_explanation">Gives you a more personalized experience by using your Google Account info</string>
<string name="create_account">Add account</string>
<string name="remove_account_content_description">Disconnect Google account</string>
Excerpt from /xml/preferences_application.xml
<com.google.android.apps.messaging.ui.appsettings.GoogleAccountPreference android:persistent="false" android:enabled="true" android:layout="@layout/google_account_preference" android:title="@string/google_account_pref_title" android:key="@string/google_account_pref_key"/>
<activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.messaging.ui.gaia.LinkGaiaAccountActivity" android:configChanges="keyboardHidden|orientation|screenLayout|screenSize" android:exported="false" android:theme="@style/BugleTheme" android:windowSoftInputMode="adjustUnspecified|stateHidden|adjustResize" />
The reasons for adding a Google account are likely related to Google-enhanced RCS features, but it could tie into Smart Replies or any number of other features.
GIF keyboard support became a popular feature in Google apps after it was added to Android 7.1, but it was quite some time before it became a fairly widespread feature. Even now, many keyboards don't natively offer GIF search. If you're not using an app like Gboard to fill this particular need, you would be out of luck in most messaging apps. Android Messages is working toward adding its own built-in GIF support, so users will be free to use any keyboard they like.
<string name="mediapicker_gif_title">Search GIFs</string>
<activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.messaging.ui.mediapicker.c2o.gif.GifBrowserActivity" android:configChanges="keyboardHidden|orientation|screenSize" android:label="@string/mediapicker_gif_title" android:parentActivityName="com.google.android.apps.messaging.ui.conversation.ConversationActivity" />
Right now, the text and resources are pretty sparse, so there's not much to say about what can be seen here. Nevertheless, GIF capabilities in Gboard and some other messaging apps are fairly consistent, so we'll probably see basically the same thing implemented here.
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.