Aside from the lack of end-to-end encryption support, one of the most annoying things for Apple iPhone users about communicating with Android users via SMS is all the iOS features that get lost when translating. If a visual effect is translated to a deadpan “(sent with balloons)”, you ruin the impact you intended with the effect, and it clutters your message history with redundant text.
On that second front, Apple’s Tapback feature is especially annoying. When using iMessage, this short list of half a dozen comments is a handy way to indicate recognition or pleasure, or simply to kick a message thread to the top of someone’s list. On Android phones, each individual Tapback generates a brand new text block with a text description of the response and the full original text. As a fallback for non-smartphones or an accessibility feature, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it can quickly make SMS group text threads chaotic and unreadable for Android users.
A new update to the Google Messages app, which was spotted by 9to5Google this weekend and now appears to be rolling out to some Android users, solves that problem by converting Tapback responses into emoji responses. Android devices using the Messages app have been able to send each other emoji responses for over a year, but this is Google’s first attempt at mapping Apple’s response mechanism.
Of course, in an ideal world, the non-stop solution to this communication problem would be for Apple to add RCS messaging support to iPhones, or make iMessage an open standard, or for Apple and Google and the world’s phone companies to get on the same page over a single standard. who can support them all. In the meantime, at least a simple “thumbs up” answer can be seen and understood no matter what smartphone ecosystem you’re embedded in.