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Google just fixed this big iMessage frustration on Android

Group of friends using smartphones while leaning along a brick wall.
(Image credit: View Apart | Shutterstock)

Google has finally issued a fix when messaging between Google Messages on Android and Apple's iMessage that subverts annoying repeat reaction texts. Beta users testing out the fix will no longer feature  a repeat text that may read, "Loved: 'let's meet up for lunch'" — instead, Android users will see the appropriate emoji alongside the message. 

This fix was first noticed by 9to5Google (opens in new tab). iMessage reactions, known as Tapbacks, will appear as tiny emojis in Google Messages. Beta users will have it enabled by default, but the feature can be toggled in Advanced settings under enable "Show iPhone reactions as emoji." We've attached a screenshot from 9to5Google below. 

Screenshot of Android user showing iMessage reactions on Android

(Image credit: 9to5Google)

iMessage is a web-based end-to-end encrypted messaging service that's exclusive to Apple devices. As such, Apple users can engage with one another in richer ways, adding Tapbacks, which are like little reactions to a specific message. For example, iMessage users can "heart" a message they like, or "thumbs down" a message they don't.

Apple users can also send larger video files and other pieces of internet content with greater ease. 

But since iMessages are on their own network that's separate of standard over-the-air text messages, these Tapbacks don't translate well to Android users using the default texting app on their phones. YouTuber Marques Brownlee has an excellent video explaining the whole blue bubble vs. green bubble debate (opens in new tab). (iMessages appear as blue bubbles on iPhones, whereas standard texts from non-iPhones appear as green).

Google has defaulted reactions to what's used on RCS, or Rich Communication Service. It's an updated form of the MMS texting standard, or Multimedia Messaging Service. RCS adds many of the modern internet-based messaging features found on iMessage and WhatsApp, but to standard over-the-air texting services. While Google has been willing to adopt the new standard, Apple has been less so (opens in new tab). Based on last year's Apple vs. Epic Games trial, it became clear from internal documents that Apple had considered bringing iMessage to Android, but held back as it would have been seen as an impediment on iPhone-owning parents from buying iPhones for their kids.

Essentially, Apple would prefer to keep Apple users in one little exclusive bubble based on the evidence from that trial.

Still, the issue involving iMessage is largely seen as a problem for the American market, as many international markets default to Meta-owned WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Since these apps are available for both Android and iPhone users, there are no exclusively colored messaging bubbles. 

Either way, the RCS reactions Google is using between iMessage users don't translate one-to-one. For example, a heart from iMessage translates to a smiling emoji with heart eyes. A question mark becomes the thinking face emoji.

That's not the only design change seemingly coming to Google Messages. According to 9to5Google, Google Messages may reintroduce the hamburger menu, potentially forgoing its new design language.

As mentioned above, this feature is currently rolling out for beta users. Per 9to5Google, it's currently working on Pixel 6 devices. It's not clear when Google will issue the update for everyone else.

Imad is currently Senior Google and Internet Culture reporter for CNET, but until recently was News Editor at Tom's Guide. Hailing from Texas, Imad started his journalism career in 2013 and has amassed bylines with the New York Times, the Washington Post, ESPN, Wired and Men's Health Magazine, among others. Outside of work, you can find him sitting blankly in front of a Word document trying desperately to write the first pages of a new book.