Galaxy S21 series will have ‘native’ Google Messages, but it’s complicated

There's a good chance your S21 will have Google and Samsung Messages

During its Unpacked event on January 14th, Samsung took time to highlight a new partnership with Google that will seem some of the search giant’s software tech gain prominence on Samsung’s newest phones.

Samsung briefly brought in Hiroshi Lockheimer, Google’s senior vice president of Android, Chrome, Chrome OS and Play, to talk about the partnership.

First, Lockheimer chatted about a deeper integration of Google Duo and Message on Samsung’s S21 lineup. It sounds like Messages will be “native” on the S21 series, but it won’t be the default. Along with including Google Messages on the S21 lineup, Lockheimer also detailed a new ‘TalkBack’ screen reader experience that would launch first on the S21 line.

Dieter Bohn, executive editor at The Verge, pointed out in a tweet that fine print displayed during the Lockheimer segment states Google Messages will be native on the S21 series.


However, Bohn says he’s told that Samsung Messages will remain the default app on the S21 line. In other words, there will be two messaging apps, both of which support Rich Communication Services (RCS) but with slightly different feature sets and differing carrier support.

For example, Google Messages supports encrypted one-to-one chats, but only for those sent from and received by devices with Google’s Messages app.

RCS support is still a confusing mess in Canada

The Unpacked event’s fine print also notes that Google Messages availability and features may differ by country, region or carrier. While Google has mostly bypassed carriers in rolling out Chat features (which utilize the RCS protocol) in its Messages app, availability still seems to somewhat rely on carriers in Canada.

For example, Bell’s website officially lists support for RCS (the carrier calls it Advanced Messaging) on a variety of Samsung devices, but not on Pixels or other Android devices. MobileSyrup has received some reports of Bell users with access to RCS features on non-Samsung devices and reports that RCS doesn’t work on these devices. MobileSyrup senior staff reporter Dean Daley has confirmed RCS works on both Samsung and Google devices while on Bell’s network.

As for Rogers and Telus, both carriers list wider support for RCS features on their website. Generally, the Big Three’s flanker brands have similar RCS support to the main brands (i.e. Fido supports the same devices as Rogers). Freedom also supports RCS with Google Messages.

In short, the whole situation is needlessly complex. If the S21 line ships to Canadians with multiple messaging apps, it’ll only make things more confusing.

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