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Google Messages may stop working on ‘uncertified’ Android devices in March

With unique features like RCS messaging and a handy web client, Google Messages has become an essential SMS/MMS app for Android. It seems that later this year, Google intends for its Messages app to stop working on uncertified Android devices.

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 the case that they do ship. With that in mind, read on.

‘Uncertified’ devices

For a device that runs the Android operating system to be formally considered an “Android,” it needs to go through Google’s certification process ahead of release. Certified devices are allowed to come with Google’s suite of apps pre-installed, including critical ones like Google Play Services.

It was once possible to manually install those Google apps onto an uncertified Android device. That is until two years ago when Google began preventing uncertified devices from even logging in to a Google Account.

Broadly speaking, Google Messages has been irrelevant to the conversation of uncertified Android devices, as the app is not preinstalled on most devices, and must instead be installed via the Google Play Store. However, this seems to not be the case for much longer. With Google Messages 7.2 beta, rolling out now via the Play Store, a new notice has been added to the app’s code.

On March 31, Messages will stop working on uncertified devices, including this one.

Simply put, if your phone is an uncertified Android device, you’ll lose access to the Google Messages app starting on March 31. While uncertified Androids are generally rare for the average person to find, there are a few notable examples, such as newer devices from Huawei.

One potential reason for the change is the recent addition of end-to-end encryption to Google Messages. Last year, when Google reiterated that Huawei device owners shouldn’t sideload Play Services onto their phones, they emphasized that uncertified devices have not had their security verified. Therefore, encrypted messages on those devices could potentially be compromised.

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

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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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