Google Messages just received its 4.2 update today as it adds a subtle but potentially valuable feature: Sending generic file types. Yes, you can now send files without being limited to just the standard photo and video collection. A teardown also brings follow-ups to the topics of Verified SMS and Google Assistant integration.
Unofficial Changelog: (the stuff we found)
- Send any type of file as an attachment
- You can now share any type of file via Messages.
- Tenor is now integrated in Messages for better GIF search.
Official changelog posted
Google has posted the official list of what's new in this release. The list of two items affirms support for sharing any file type through Messages and also adds support for the Tenor keyboard app (a GIF sharing service comparable to Giphy). If you want another source of GIFs to send to your friends, this might be worth checking out.
As a quick aside, while they're not technically new, this version seems to be triggering the Suggested Actions and an About screen, both of which began appearing in v4.1. At the time, only for some users saw either of these, and they both may have disappeared after initially going live. Suggested Actions is probably still be a Fi-only feature, but I expect the About screen should be visible to everybody with this update.
Attaching files of any type
It didn't seem like something that would happen, but after a teardown of v4.0 revealed text that was unusually non-specific about attachment types, the possibility of sending basically any file type came into question. As it turns out, Google took the plunge and the Messages app now supports sending of generic files.
The action for generic attachments is buried all the way at the bottom of the share sheet. Just hit the button and you'll be taken to the standard file browser where you can pick from the standard folders or file providers like Google Drive or Dropbox. Like any other attachment, you'll see the file added to an outgoing message, but you'll have to hit the button to send it.
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. All screenshots and images are real unless otherwise stated, and images are only altered to remove personal information.
Follow-up: Verified SMS
Since the last teardown revealed Google is implementing Verified SMS in Messages, there has been good reason to be optimistic about the future of fighting spam calls and texts. Sadly, some new text might indicate that the Verified SMS feature is not related to the SHAKEN/STIR protocols that would have gone a long way toward minimizing abusive telemarketers and scammers.
The new text belongs to a setting for enabling Verified SMS. The summary explicitly spells out that it will be used for authenticating businesses, but makes no mention of personal calls.
<string name="verified_sms_user_setting_title">Verify business message sender</string>
<string name="verified_sms_user_setting_summary">For incoming SMS messages from businesses, Google can check if the sender is verified or not. Google won\'t see your message content. Verifying the sender may use data. Learn more</string>
<string name="verified_sms_user_setting_disabled_snippet">Do not verify business message sender</string>
<string name="verified_sms_user_setting_enabled_snippet">Verify business message sender</string>
The description is very clear that this feature will contact Google to determine if senders have been verified. This is definitely not congruent with the implementation of SHAKEN/STIR, which performs the authentication by contacting the carrier where the call or text originated. Unfortunately, this possibly means Pixel users won't be getting the spam prevention technology for a little longer than expected. And on a personal note, sorry for getting everybodies' hopes up. Sometimes optimism obscures reality.
Follow-up: Google Assistant integration
We've already talked about Assistant integration in Messages, and this version brings a tiny bit more. It looks like there may be some kind of confirmation step for messages sent with Assistant that are supposed to pass through Messages.
<activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.messaging.voiceactions.BugleSearchActionVerificationClientActivity" android:exported="true">
<action android:name="com.google.android.apps.messaging.SEND_MESSAGE_FROM_ASSISTANT_WITH_CONFIRMATION" />
<category android:name="android.intent.category.DEFAULT" />
<activity android:name="com.google.android.apps.messaging.voiceactions.LaunchConversationShimActivity" android:exported="false" android:noHistory="true" /><string name="google_assistant_verification_channel_name">Assistant verifier</string>
<string name="google_assistant_verification_notification_title">Google Assistant sending message</string>
I'm not sure this entirely makes sense given that Assistant already has a confirmation step that can be controlled either through voice or touchscreen. Perhaps there's another workflow that will pop up in the future where this makes more sense.
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.