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Google Messages to send iMessage-like reaction texts such as ‘Liked a photo’

Google has recently begun making progress toward bringing reactions to RCS, or at least their version of RCS in the Google Messages app. In the latest salvo in the petty war of blue bubble vs green bubble, Google Messages is getting ready to send some very iMessage-like reaction text messages, such as “Liked a photo.”

About APK Insight: In this “APK Insight” post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in case they do ship. With that in mind, read on.

Last month, we discovered that Google Messages was preparing to bring reactions to its RCS messaging. At the time, we joked about the potential for Android users to bug iOS users with messages such as “Laughed at an image.”

These messages are known as “fallback” texts, and are used when someone you’re talking to — especially in group chats — can’t receive the kind of advanced messaging you’re trying to send. On iPhones, instead of removing your ability to send a reaction when talking to someone without iMessage, your reaction is simply sent as a descriptive SMS/MMS text message.

With Messages 5.8, which released tonight on the Play Store to beta testers, we find from a handful of strings that Google is readying these exact same kinds of reaction fallback texts. These are messages that will only be sent when reacting to a message from someone who doesn’t have RCS.

<string name=”add_reaction_for_photo_rcs_fallback_text”>\u200b%1$s\u200b a photo</string>

The string itself is a template which will be filled in based on what reaction you’re sending to become something like “Laughed at a photo” or “Liked a photo.” Beyond photos, there’s prep work for reactions to contacts, videos, gifs, text messages and more.

For text messages, just like on iMessage, it looks like Google Messages will send the full text of that message back in the reaction, judging from the template. So reacting to the message in the image above would send back a message along the lines of: Liked “¯\_(ツ)_/¯”.

<string name=”add_reaction_for_text_message_rcs_fallback_text”>\u200b%1$s\u200b \\”%2$s\\”</string>

It should be interesting to see what most people’s reaction (sorry) is to suddenly receiving these kinds of messages from their friends. On the positive end, people with Android phones who receive these messages may be inspired to look into trying out the Google Messages app. Meanwhile, I’d wager iPhone owners will be aggravated by these reaction texts.

More importantly, I wonder how long it will take for reactions to become usable in RCS apps beyond Google Messages. If people who use Verizon Messages or Samsung Messages aren’t able to properly send and receive reactions, and instead get these fallback texts, then one could argue that messaging fragmentation has gotten worse instead of better with RCS. Here’s hoping app developers and phone companies are able to put their heads together on a good solution for the long term.

Thanks to JEB Decompiler, from which some APK Insight teardowns benefit.

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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