Google Messages begins testing end-to-end encryption for RCS group texts

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) is being tested by Google in Messages on Android for RCS group chats. In advance of a broader rollout, some participants in the Messages open beta program will gain access in the coming weeks. During its I/O 2022 developer conference, the company stated that an E2EE beta for group chats would be available by the year’s end.
The change comes 18 months after Google Messages began offering E2EE for one-on-one conversations to keep conversations private. It began testing E2EE in Messages in November 2020, so the privacy feature may not be available to all group chats for several months.

Over the past few years, a lot of phone manufacturers and carriers have joined RCS to offer features like reading receipts, E2EE, and high-quality photos and videos. None of those are supported by the 30-year-old SMS format. Apple, on the other hand, is cozying up inside the walled garden of iMessage, and it is the only company that is continuing to scoff at RCS.

Apple has been publicly pleaded with by Google to adopt RCS, but Google’s efforts have not yet been successful. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, joked in September that iOS users who have trouble sending videos to a loved one using an Android device should just buy them an iPhone.

Nevertheless, Google has been attempting to enhance iOS and Android messaging interoperability, and in a blog post, it made a second attempt to convince Apple to adopt RCS. “Today, all of the major mobile carriers and manufacturers have adopted RCS as the standard — except for Apple,” Messages group product manager Neena Budhiraja wrote. “Apple refuses to adopt RCS and continues to rely on SMS when people with iPhones message people with Android phones, which means their texting is stuck in the 1990s.”

Nevertheless, there are businesses working on ways to make iMessage available on additional devices. Sunbird, an app created this week, claims to have made iMessage compatible with Android.