Google likes to add little things to its apps that might not seem like a big deal but end up being useful. The latest update to the Google Messages app adds the contact list profile picture of the person you’re messaging to the top of the screen. By tapping on the profile picture, you will access the contact card of this person. To make room for the avatar, Google removed the search function at the top of the screen and removed the magnifying glass icon. If you need the search tool, tap the three-dot overflow menu icon to find it as an option.
To be clear, we are talking about the Google Messages application which includes the Rich Communication Services (RCS) platform. The latter has exactly the same functionality as the much-vaunted (by iPhone users) iMessage platform. Both include end-to-end encryption, higher quality images, read receipts, keystroke indicators, and more.
Google tried to get Apple to include RCS as part of a cross-platform messaging app
Now here’s the thing. What do you assume happens in an RCS group chat when an iPhone user joins? All of those cool features are gone, which is exactly what happens when an Android user joins an iOS group chat. Yet you never hear of Android users bullying iPhone users to the brink of emotional distress. And Google has been more than willing to allow Apple to add the RCS platform to Apple’s Messages app. However, Apple CEO Tim Cook would probably rather hear his sink running all night than allow the development of a cross-platform messaging app.
Google adds the profile picture of the person you’re messaging to at the top of the screen
Additionally, and it’s important for Android users to understand, RCS is available on the Google Messages app. It is NOT available on messaging apps that your carrier may have pre-installed on your Android phone. For example, if you use the Verizon Messages app, T-Mobile Messages app, or any other Android messaging app outside of Google Messages, you don’t get the RCS platform.
For RCS to work, you and the rest of the chat group must all use the Google Messages app. You can tell if other people you’re chatting with are using Google Messages by the color of the text bubble that appears when you send a message. If it’s dark blue, you’re engaged in a conversation on RCS. Also look at the text field. If it says Text Message, you are about to send a message to an iPhone user or an Android user using a messaging app that is not Google Messages. Instead of using the RCS platform, these messages use old-school SMS.
RCS chat to iMessage on the left, RCS messaging to RCS on the right
If the text field says RCS Message, you are sending a message to another Android user with the Google Message app and you will have full RCS functionality. If you don’t have the Google Messages app on your Android phone, you can install it by tapping on this link.
How to Join the Google Messages Beta to Receive New Features Before Most People
The new Google Messages feature that shows the profile picture of the person you message was first spotted by 9to5Google. To view profile pictures, you must be using Google Messages app version 20230313_01_RC00.phone.openbeta_dynamic or later. To see which version you’re using, open the Google Messages app and tap your profile picture to the right of the search filed at the top of the screen. Tap Message Settings and scroll to the bottom.
The very last option reads About, Terms and Privacy. Tap it and the version information will be the first thing listed on the page you’re sent to. If you haven’t seen profile pictures on your Google Messages app yet, they may currently be available for Google Messages beta testers. To join the beta, go to the Play Store, open it and type Google Messages in the search box. Once you see the list of Google messages, scroll down and if Google accepts more beta testers for the app, you will see a button to tap to join.
Even if you’re not a beta tester of the app, you should see profile pictures appear on an upcoming stable version of Google Messages.