Google opens beta program for end-to-end encryption in group chats

And once again, the tech giant is shaming its frenemy Apple for using SMS over RCS.
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer
Man seated, looking at his phone
Image: Getty Images

Google is testing end-to-end encryption in group chats, the company said Friday. 

Android phone users interested in joining the open beta program can find instructions for signing up in the Android Messages Help Center. 

Google Messages, the company's texting app, already supports end-to-end encryption for one-on-one text messages. 

Encryption "shouldn't even be a thought – just an expectation and something anyone texting should not have to worry about," Messages by Google group product manager Neena Budhiraja wrote in a blog post.

Also: The 5 best encrypted messaging apps: Keep your chats private

While announcing the new beta program, Google took the opportunity to once again shame its largest competitor in the mobile OS world, Apple, for supporting SMS instead of RCS. RCS (the Rich Communication Services protocol) is the successor to SMS and MMS on Android, but it's unlikely Apple will adopt it in iOS. 

In its blog post, Budhiraja noted that SMS does not allow for end-to-end encryption as RCS does. RCS also allows for enhanced texting capabilities, such as seeing real-time typing indicators and read receipts.

Squares with brand names of companies that support RCS

"Most of the mobile world is already using RCS," Google says, pressuring Apple to do the same.

Image: Google

Earlier this year, Google launched a "Get the Message" campaign to pressure Apple into adopting RCS. "Hopefully Apple can #GetTheMessage so we don't have to keep waiting to remove the whole "green-versus-blue bubble" thing," Budhiraja wrote Friday. 

Also: How to enable end-to-end encryption for Facebook Messenger chats

Apple, however, has made clear that it's not interested in switching to RCS when it's already added many rich features to its own iMessage app. At an event in September, Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested that if you're an Android user unhappy with the texting experience between Apple and Android devices, you should just get an iPhone

"I don't see our users asking us to put a lot of energy into that at this point," Cook said with respect to RCS. "I would love to convert you to an iPhone."

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