Google Is Easing a Major iOS to Android Messaging Pain Point

The blue bubble vs green bubble messaging debate is raging on, stronger than ever, but Google is working to eliminate one of the biggest pain points of cross-platform messaging between Android and iOS: Tapback responses. Tapbacks are a way for iOS users to tap and hold on a text and react to it with a heart, like, dislike, laughter, exclamation point, or question mark. Unfortunately, Android has not natively supported any kind of Tapback response – until now.

Because Android did not previously support any sort of Tapback response from iOS devices, when an iOS user sends a Tapback to an Android user's text, it spelled it out explicitly. For example, a laughter Tapback on a message from Jill to Jack saying "The dog won't get off my lap" would look like: "Jack laughed at 'The dog won't get off my lap.'" It would appear that Google is addressing this annoyance in the latest Android release.

Google's Solution To Tapbacks

Google has recently adopted RCS messaging, a modern successor to traditional SMS. RCS makes standard messaging more comparable to the features Apple's iMessage protocol includes, such as group administration, read receipts, typing indicators, and more.

Thanks to Google's addition of RCS, the company is able to build in at least basic support for Tapback responses, mapping the Tapbacks to standard RCS responses. As a result, instead of explicitly spelling out a response, Google's solution will display an inline emoji, similar to how an iPhone would a response icon.

Unfortunately, it appears that Google took some liberties with the emoji translation. For example, a heart Tapback will display the "Smiling Face with Heart-Eyes" emoji. Similarly, a question mark will be displayed as the "Thinking Face" emoji.

As 9to5Google points out, these changes could result in some confusion, or nuanced meanings being "lost in translation" between iOS and Android. It would have been much better if Google had done a straight 1:1 translation, opting for iOS style response icons.

Nonetheless, even in its current incarnation, Google's solution is better than spelled-out descriptions. The new feature is enabled by default on the latest Android update, but can be turned off via Messages > Settings > Advanced.