Google Messages is getting a colorful facelift, and one feature looks suspiciously familiar

In celebration of one billion RCS users on Messages, Google is rolling out several design changes to make conversations pop a little more.
Written by Kerry Wan, Senior Reviews Editor
Google Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro
June Wan/ZDNET

When I first saw the new features coming to Google's Messages app, I did a double-take. Didn't Apple just roll out a feature that lets you magically crop out a subject from an image and use it as a text reaction? Well, now Android users, myself included, can get in on the action, too. And there are plenty of other, more original features to savor, in light of Google Messages surpassing one billion active users.

Also: Apple to bring RCS text messaging to iPhones next year. Here's Google's response

The company today is launching a total of seven new features to its RCS text messaging platform including "Photomoji," described above. Here's the list of what's new, and how you can use them in your next conversation.

Photomoji - Thanks to on-device Google AI, you can now tap and hold on the subject of an image to lift it from the background, send it as a message reaction, and even stash it in a special reuse bin. Other users in the thread can also access the cropped Photomoji.

Voice Moods -  The next time you leave a voice message, you'll be able to accent the waveform bubble with emoji effects, including heart-eyes, fireballs, and party poppers. Perhaps more user-beneficial, voice messages are getting a quality boost thanks to increased bitrate and sample rate.

Also: iOS 17 makes iMessage group chats with Android users more bearable - sort of

Screen Effects - Typing in specific messages like "It's snowing" or "I love you" will now prompt a Screen Effect, a burst of colors and animations that depict what's being said. Google says there are more than 15 hidden Screen Effects prompt words to uncover.

Custom Bubbles - In Google's words, "it's no longer about blue vs. green" with Custom Bubbles. Users can now customize the color of threads and chat bubbles for different group messages and contacts. This should help users better differentiate conversations, including work and family-related ones.

Google Messages Screen Effects

Screen Effects in action.


Reaction Effects - Let's face it: Reacting to a message with just a thumbs up is dull and unengaging. Reaction Effects gives the standard suite of reactions, like the thumbs up, sad face, and crying laugh, more depth and flare. For example, a thumbs-up can trigger multiple hand gestures to appear for a brief moment.

Also: How to verify encryption in Google Messages

Animated Emoji - This one's fairly self-explanatory. Emojis are now animated, bringing a little more life to conversations.

Profiles - It's like a business card for your Google products and services. Setting a picture and display name will allow users with your phone number or email address to better recognize you when conversing, especially in a group chat setting.

To access these new Messages features, you'll have to update the app from the Google Play Store and be enrolled in the beta program, which you can do here

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