The Android Messages app was updated with a number of new features packed into the third developer preview of Android O, including support for Notification Channels and some other functionalities. Notification Channels are one of the main additions to the upcoming iteration of Google's operating system and are meant to provide users with more control on how to handle various notifications on their devices. Instead of issuing system-wide settings or enabling and disabling notifications from individual apps, Android 8.0 is able to differentiate between types of notifications sent by apps in an effort to prioritize them or avoid displaying them entirely, with its exact behavior being completely up to users.
Android Messages adopted Notification Channels at the expense of user-specific settings that have now been completely removed from the preferences menu of the app. Found in their place is a general menu that directs you to the Notification Channels section of the Android system Settings app. It's currently unclear whether the Alphabet-owned company has any plans to reintroduce notification preferences for individual users at some point in the future, though more details on the matter may follow shortly. Another change present in the 2.3 build of Android Messages is the addition of a "Mark as Read" option beneath the app's notifications. The button takes place of the "Reply" command that has now been pushed to the right and reportedly works as expected even in the experimental version of the app.
As revealed by a recent teardown of the new APK file, the code found in the latest Android Messages build contains references to "Suggested Replies," a feature that's said to be similar to the recently launched Smart Reply functionality of Gmail. Apart from generic answers, this particular option can also recommend sharing your location with another user or users. It remains to be seen whether Suggested Replies go live alongside the first stable build of Android O or at a different time, with Google not officially detailing the feature as of this writing. The Mountain View-based company recently said that the fourth developer preview of Android O will be released in July while the OS is expected to hit the stable channel in August.