Android opens up earthquake alerts and end-to-end encrypted messages

End-to-end encrypted messages to begin rolling out for chats between individual Messages users.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor
Image: Google

Google announced a half dozen updates to Android on Tuesday, including the further rollout of earthquake alerts and end-to-end encrypted messages.

Earthquake alerts were first announced in August, and uses smartphone accelerometers to detect sudden earth movements.

If the phone detects an earthquake, it will send a signal to Google's earthquake detection server, along with a course location of where the tremor occurred. The server will then combine the information it has received from multiple Android phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening.

Eventually, if an earthquake is detected, the system will automatically send warning alerts to Android devices so people can find cover or safer ground.

The system is already live in New Zealand and Greece, with Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan coming on board.

"We are prioritising launching Earthquake Alerts in countries with higher earthquake risks, and hope to launch in more and more countries over the coming year," the company said.

For users of the in-built Messages app on Android, there is now a chance of having those messages encrypted.

"End-to-end encryption is available in one-on-one conversations between Messages users with chat features enabled," the company said.

A lock symbol at the top of the chat appears to be the visual feedback that a conversation is encrypted.

In November, Google said it planned to automatically upgrade the security of chats where possible, but it would involve both participants having RCS chat features enabled. RCS is not compatible with Apple's iMessage protocol.

The company said it had introduced the ability for users to star messages, contextual Emoji Kitchen suggestions, given the option for voice control to only work when the user is looking at the screen, as well as better voice password input.

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