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Home / Tips and Tricks / Don’t be jealous of iMessage. Here’s how to use Google’s fancy chat feature on Android phones

Don’t be jealous of iMessage. Here’s how to use Google’s fancy chat feature on Android phones

google messages android

Google’s Messages app has a lot to offer and keeps getting better.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

iPhone owners are not shy about their love for it iMessage. And if we’re honest, they have good reason to brag about how regular Apple’s messaging platform is texting too bad with improved features like group conversations, inline replies, mentions, Wi-Fi messaging and sharing photos or videos in full resolution. However, Android’s messaging skills are catching up.

Google’s Messages app, the default text messaging app on most Android phones, has a built-in chat feature that enables advanced features, many of which are similar to what you can find in iMessage. And just this week, Google announced that the feature is now available worldwide, with the bonus rollout of testing end-to-end encrypted messages for one-to-one messages.

The boring technical name for the service is RCS messages, but more often, and easier to remember, Google refers to its features as Chat. If you don’t use it now, you’re missing out. Most of the most popular iMessage features are integrated into Google Chat, which itself is baked into Google’s Messages app, including the ability to send and receive messages from your computer.

To be clear, to use the features you need, you must use the Google Messages app, not your phone brand’s own text messaging app. We’ll show you how to make Messages your default text app if it isn’t already, what text features you get, and how to use Google Chat Messages on your Android phone.

Even Samsung is participating. It recently announced that its Messages app will soon start using the same RCS technology available in Google’s Messages app. If you Samsung Galaxy phone, it’s best to use the Google Messages app for now, 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 Messages app installed and set as the default text messaging app. The first time you launch Messages, you’ll be asked if you want to set it as your default app. Just follow the instructions and don’t worry, you won’t lose your conversation history by switching.

After you set Messages as your default messaging app, take a few minutes to set up Messages for the web so you can send and receive text messages from your computer.

The service is available worldwide, so it doesn’t matter which carrier you use or which country you live in, as long as you have installed and use the Messages app you can access Chat.

OnePlus North

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

Juan Garzon / CNET

Enable Google chat features

After you install Google’s Messages app and set it as your default text messaging app, there are two different ways to enable Chat. You can wait for a prompt in the Messages app asking if you want to see when your friends are typing, or you can go to the Settings section of Messages and look for the switch to turn on Chat.

Tap when you get the prompt Top up now, follow the instructions and enter your phone number if prompted. Alternatively, you can also open Messages and tap and select the three-dot menu button (top right corner of the app) Settings > Chat features.

On the same settings page, you can also turn your read receipts on or off, turn off the typing indicator when you type and control what happens if Chat doesn’t send a message.

chat features settings

Make sure to adjust Chat settings.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

If you’re having trouble sending messages, you can also view the current status of your phone’s connection to the instant messaging service in the settings section of the app. As long as it says Connected, your phone number is registered with Chat and you must use the service when talking to a contact who also has Chat enabled.

That is an important aspect of Chat. Whoever you’re talking to must also have the feature enabled on their device in order to use the new chat features, although all the usual text messaging features still apply, of course.

You can take advantage faster by letting your friends use Google Messages. You can walk them through the installation process (or send them a link to this post).

chat features-in-conversation

The Messages app looks mostly the same.

Screenshot by Jason Cipriani / CNET

Use the new chat features in a conversation

After you enable the chat features, the Messages app will continue to work and look the same, and you should continue to use it the same way you always do. The app knows when you are talking to someone via text message or another 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 type designations, read receipts, and the rest of the features that RCS Messaging provides.

You can even add comments to posts. Just long press on a message until a bubble appears, which gives you a few different options including love, laughter or anger.

chat-vs-text-text field

It’s pretty easy to tell when you’re going to send a text message or use the new chat features.

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani / CNET

When chat features are in use, you’ll see delivered and read receipts under every message you’ve sent, and you can send full-resolution photos and share files with other chat users. You don’t need to do anything special to send a high-resolution image, just tap the photo icon in the app and choose a photo or video. You will see a loading circle on the image while it is being uploaded and sent, but otherwise the process looks and works the same as sending a text message.

Since Chat works over mobile data or Wi-Fi, you can put your phone in airplane mode and you can still send and receive messages with other Chat users who are only using a Wi-Fi connection.

Switch phones? Make sure to turn off Chat

Just like Apple’s iMessage tries to hold onto your phone number if you forget to turn it off, Chat does too. Before using it SIM card Make sure to turn off Chat from your phone. If you forget to turn off chat features before moving your SIM card to a new phone, chat features can continue to work for up to eight days. This means you may not receive messages to your number from someone using chat.


Keep in mind that it is not encrypted.

Angela Lang / CNET

Disable Chat by opening Settings > Chat features in the Messages app and slide the switch next to Enable chat features to the from position. I recommend waiting a few minutes after turning it off so Google’s servers can process the request and make sure your number doesn’t get stuck.

How to test encrypted messages

When Chat was first launched, the service did not encrypt messages at all. But in November, Google announced it would begin testing end-to-end encrypted messages for conversations with other Chat users. It does not yet apply to group conversations. To use encrypted messages, you must sign up for the beta version of the Messages app. Follow the instructions, install the beta, update the app, and wait for your account to be eligible to test. It is unclear whether there will be a message to let you know that a conversation has been encrypted, but we will continue to check and update this message as we learn more.

If Google’s chat service is still not enough to keep you on Android, switching to iPhone is easier than you may think. However, if you’re completely satisfied with Android, we have one collection of the best apps in 2020, along with a handful of our favorite features in Android 11.

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