Google-owned mobile service Google Fi is rolling out end-to-end encrypted phone calls. All one-to-one calls between Android phones on the MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) will be end-to-end encrypted, the company announced Thursday. The rollout will begin “in the coming weeks,” though we don’t have an exact time frame. Google doesn’t say when this feature will come to iPhone users, though it does suggest that iOS devices will gain support in the future.
Most messaging apps already offer end-to-end encryption (E2EE), ensuring that no one but only the participants in a conversation can access the messages. As Google notes, E2EE has become an “industry standard for real-time communications”. But the technology is mostly limited to messaging services. The company now wants to bring it to phone calls as well.
“No one besides you and the person you’re talking to should be able to hear what you’re saying over the phone,” Google says.
Once rolled out, E2EE will be enabled by default for all eligible calls on Google Fi, i.e. calls between two Android phones both on the search giant’s mobile service. The company will provide “audio and visual cues” to let you know that a call is end-to-end encrypted. The cues include a “unique ringing tone” and a lock symbol. You’ll hear the unique tone when placing an E2EE eligible call, while the lock symbol will appear on the screen “just before” the call connects. It will then appear on the screen of both devices throughout the call.
Google Fi adds to its privacy and security features
Google Fi offers a bunch of privacy and security features at no additional cost. The most notable of them is a built-in VPN (virtual private network) to keep your online activity secure and private. Like most other wireless carriers, Google Fi also offers a spam blocking feature to keep unwanted calls away. Additionally, with the Google Messages app, messaging on the service is also end-to-end encrypted. The company is now building on that and bringing E2EE to phone calls as well.
Note that E2EE only works with one-to-one calls on Google Fi. So conference calls and voicemails are not covered. The feature works over both Wi-Fi and cellular 4G/5G connections. However, as The Verge notes, turning OFF the “Wi-Fi calling” option in the Google Fi app disables E2EE. Nonetheless, if you’re a Google Fi user, you can now look forward to making end-to-end encrypted calls.