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Stop being jealous of iMessage. How to use Google’s cool caption on Android phones

Google android-messages

Google’s messaging app has a lot to offer and it’s getting better.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Talk to almost everyone iPhone owners about their favorite features, and that’s almost a guarantee they will mention iMessage, which is in line with the standard text app with a suite of useful, enhanced features, including smart group threads, sending and reading receipts, Wi-Fi messaging, and full-resolution image sharing. So where does it leave Android?

Thankfully, Google’s communication skills capture. Just last week, Google added responses to chat conversations, lets you like or heart a message, just like you can in an iMessage or Facebook Messenger conversation.

The boring technical name for the service is RCS messages, but more often and more easily, Google refers to features such as Chat. If you do not use it now you will miss. Most of the most popular iMessage features are integrated with Google Chat, which is itself embedded in Google’s messaging app, including the ability to send and receive messages from your computer.

To use the features, you must use the Google Messaging app, not your phone’s own text app. We’ll show you how to make messages to your default text app if it’s not already, what text features you’ll get and how to start using Google Chat messages on your Android phone

Even Samsung is starting to act. It recently announced that its Messaging app will soon start using the same RCS technology found in the Google Messaging app. If you own one Samsung Galaxy phone, is the best way to use the Google Messages app at the moment, at least until Samsung completes the rollout. We will update this post as we learn more.

Let’s take a closer look at what you need to do to enable the new feature, as well as some of the more nuanced aspects of Chat.

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Get started with Google’s chat feature

First, you need an Android phone with the Google Messaging app installed and set as the default text messaging app. The first time you start notifications, it will ask if you want to set it as your default app. Just follow the instructions and do not worry, you will not lose your conversation history by switching.

Once you’ve set up Messaging as your default messaging app, take a few minutes and set up Messaging for the Web, which lets you do it send and receive text messages from your computer.

The chat works in the US, UK, France or Mexico. There is no official list of countries, but the Android police have received reports from users in Italy, Portugal and Singapore have also been able to use Chat. Android Central also has a list of countries and respective operators that offer support.

OnePlus North

You need to use Google’s own Messages app to take advantage of Chat.

Juan Garzon / CNET

Turn on Google’s chat features

After installing the Google messaging app and setting it up as your regular text app, there are two different ways to enable Chat. You can either wait for a question in the messaging app and ask if you want to see when your friends are writing, or if you can go into settings section of messages and look for the switch to turn on Chat.

When you get a question, press Upgrade now then follow the instructions and enter your phone number if you are asked. Alternatively, you can also open messages and tap the menu button with three dots (upper right corner of the app) and select settings > chat Features.

The same settings page is also where you can go to turn on or off read receipts, as well as disable the write indicator when typing and check what happens if Chat cannot send a message.

chat features settings

Make sure you adjust the Chat settings.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

If you encounter problems sending messages, you can also see the current status of your phone’s connection to the Chat service in the app’s settings section. As long as it says Connected, your phone number is registered with Chat and should use the service when talking to a contact who also has chat enabled.

That’s an important aspect of the chat. The person you are talking to must also have the feature enabled on their device to use the new chat features, although of course all standard text features still apply.

You will be able to take advantage of the past by getting your friends to use Google Messaging. You can guide them through the installation process (or send a link to this post).

chat functions in-call

The messaging app usually looks the same.

Screenshot of Jason Cipriani / CNET

Use the new chat features in a conversation

Once you have activated chat features, the messaging app will continue to work and look the same and you should continue to use it the same way you always have. The app knows when you are talking to someone via text or other contact with chat enabled.

The easiest way to tell if a conversation is using old-fashioned text messages or the new chat features is to look at the text box before you start typing. If the box says “Chat message”, the conversation has write indicators, read receipts and the rest of the features that RCS messages offer.

To use the new response feature, press and hold a message until a bubble appears, presenting a few different options, including similar, love, laughter, or anger.


It’s pretty easy to see when to send a text or use the new chat features.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

When using chat features, you see delivered and read receipts under each message you have sent, and you can send photos in full resolution and share files with other chat users. You do not need to do anything special to send a high-resolution image, just tap the photo icon in the app and select photo or video. You see a charging circle in the image when it is uploaded and sent, but otherwise the process looks and works in the same way as sending a text message.

Because Chat works via mobile data or Wi-Fi, you can put your phone in flight mode and you can still send and receive messages with other chat users.

Change phone? Make sure you turn off Chat

Just like Apple’s iMessage tries to hold on to your phone number if you forget to disable it, so does Chat. Before removing SIM card from your phone, be sure to turn off the chat. If you forget to turn off chat features before moving your SIM card to a new phone, the chat features may continue to work for up to eight days. Which means you may not get messages sent to your number by someone using chat.

OnePlus-8 pro-0581

Remember it is not encrypted.

Angela Lang / CNET

Disable chat by opening settings > chat Features in the messaging app and slide the switch next to it Enable chat features to Of place. I suggest you wait a few minutes after shutting it down to let Google’s servers process the request and make sure your number does not get stuck in limbo.

Note Your messages are not encrypted

Google does not currently encrypt your conversations with other chat users. The conversations are securely sent from your phone to Google’s server and then to the recipient’s phone, after which the messages are deleted from Google’s server, but these messages are not encrypted from end to end.

You can use apps like WhatsApp and Signal, or Apple’s iMessage if you prefer one-to-one encryption.

If Google’s chat service is still not enough to keep you on Android, Switching to iPhone is easier than you might think. But if you are completely satisfied with Android, we have one compilation of the best apps 2020, along with a handful of our favorite features coming to Android 11 when it is official was released later this year.

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