Google Messages, previously known as Android Messages, will soon get end-to-end encryption for RCS chats. That's according to recent reports stemming from a teardown of a test variant of version 6.2 of the app. The test, referred to as a "dogfood" build, serves as a way for Googlers to internally try out incoming features. And it recently made its way over to APKMirror. That seems to indicate that this feature could arrive sooner than later.
What does end-to-end encryption in RCS chats mean for Google Messages users?
Now, there are some prerequisites to end-to-end encryption beyond the need to have RCS chats enabled — at the very least in this beta variant of Google Messages. But it isn't immediately clear what those requirements will be.
For instance, for the time being, both users will likely need to be using Google Messages. But it may be possible for the feature to extend to include one party to be using other messaging apps. Particularly if those other apps gain encryption.
A good connection is also required — as is already the case for RCS-based messages. And messages won't go through if that connection drops for any participating member of a chat. When that does happen, Google seems to have messages in place to let users know what's going on. In effect, users will be asked if they want to sent the message over SMS or MMS instead. Those methods are, of course, not encrypted.
Google additionally seems prepared to warn users that those messages aren't encrypted while asking consent to send the messages over SMS or MMS. Conversely, they can wait until the other user or users have a solid connection over which to send the message.
That's an important inclusion in this feature, given the purpose of end-to-end encryption. Like Google's recently added verified SMS feature for Messages, this incoming feature is all about security. In effect, unless users are a victim of a fairly complex attack, only the end-users involved in a conversation will be able to read the messages. When they're being sent over a network, they'll be encoded and encrypted so that they can't be easily read if they are intercepted.
Building its way to the top
Google Messages has amassed a massive following. In fact, it recently hit a billion installs. What makes that noteworthy is the fact that Messages is not installed by default on the overwhelming majority of smartphones. So the achievement is the direct result of the addition of new features such as end-to-end encryption, SMS verification, and more. That's all stacking atop features that already pinned it as one of the best SMS apps around.
Now, in part, the success of Google Messages can be attributed to how cleanly it integrates with the Android ecosystem and with other Google apps. That comes down to its support for Dark Mode and Material Design. But it also derives from the above-mentioned features, the ability to support chat-like group texts, Google Pay transfers, direct video and voice calling via Google Duo, and other features.
With that popularity, the messaging platform also becomes a bigger target for cyber threats. So it just makes sense to add in encryption and other protective features. Not only as a way to garner more users but as a way to keep current users safe.