For the longest time, Google has been trying to come up with a worthy competitor to Apple’s iMessage, a free built-in messaging service across devices. It’s pretty difficult for Android of course since there are a lot of device makers and models out there. The past few years, they are saying that RCS messaging is the successor to SMS and MMS and using it on Google Messages is the closest we can compete to iMessages. Now we might be getting one important component: end-to-end encryption.
In an APK teardown by 9 to 5 Google, they were able to spot twelve new strings in the app that refer to encryption. This is one advantage that iMessage had over Google Message as the former is able to encrypt its messages and make its users feel more secure. End-to-end encryption means that your messages can only be read on the recipient’s device and so is more secure than messages that pass through the servers of the app.
It looks like encryption will come to RCS through Google Messages based on the teardown. There are not a lot of details yet like what are the requirements to be able to have encrypted messages. One possibility is that both users will have to use Google Messages for the encryption to work. Based on the strings, both the sender and user must have good Internet for the messages to go through. Otherwise, they will be sent through SMS or SMS if it’s not pushing through because of poor connection.
Don’t worry though, you will get a reminder that SMS or MMS are not encrypted and you will have to give your consent before they are able to send the message. There are also extra protections like seeing whether other Android apps can see your encrypted messages or reminders that your messages are encrypted if you’re sharing your location. All of these are of course unconfirmed and are just seen in the code embedded in the Google Messages app.
It will probably be a while before we see any confirmed details about this since it’s still in a pretty early build of Google Messages. But seeing a lot of messaging apps getting end-to-end encryption, this is almost a sure thing, if they really want to compete with iMessages and other messaging apps.