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Google Messages may finally be adding end-to-end encryption for RCS

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An analysis of the latest update to Google Messages suggests it may be moving closer to having end-to-end encryption for RCS, according to 9to5 Google (via APKMirror). Rich communication services, or RCS, is the successor to SMS messaging and does what most other texting services do, but without the end-to-end encryption that apps like Signal and iMessage have. Its widespread adoption has been a bit of a mess, but the major US cellular carriers announced late last year that they would offer RCS in 2020.

Google first unveiled RCS chat as Android’s primary texting platform in 2018, and in November, announced it was actually rolling it out to users in the US.

An internal build of Google Messages v. 6.2 has several lines of code that offer clues to possible future features for the app, including 12 new strings that refer to encryption, according to 9to5 Google’s analysis. There isn’t enough information available to determine whether the sender and recipient of texts in Messages would need to be using the app for the end-to-end encryption to be in effect. The code updates do suggest a setting that might allow users to decide whether to grant permission to other Android apps that have access to messages to see encrypted messages as well.

There’s no way to know if or when Google will ever ship the end-to-end encryption feature. But the company has said previously that it was working on it, so it seems likely to happen.

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Google app tests compact weather bubble on Android

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After several years of evolution, Google Discover has firmly settled into a feed of news and articles that are tailored to your interests. Cards for sports and weather still exists, with the latter on Android seeing a redesign today in the form of a bubble.

The latest Google app beta this evening swaps out the weather card under the Search field for a pill-shaped bubble in the top-left corner of the screen. Opposite the account switcher, this oval simply features the current weather condition as an icon and temperature. Tapping performs a standard “weather” lookup.

It’s quite a clean design, but you lose the day’s high/low, precipitation chance, and your current location. Then again, you likely have a multitude of ways to see the temperature on your phone. Google’s methods include the Discover feed to the left of the homescreen and Assistant’s new Snapshots feed, which features a nicer looking card and hourly forecast.

In the Google app removing it’s built-in weather card, Discover is moving ever closer to just a feed dedicated to personalized stories. Sports will likely remain there as those recap cards are an opportunity to surface game-related content.

This weather bubble is already found on the Google app for iOS. On Android, it’s appearing naturally on a OnePlus device running the latest Search beta (version 11.11). None of our Pixel phones have the new compact pill.

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Latest Google Pixel Buds firmware update rolling out

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The second-generation Pixel Buds went on sale in late April and tomorrow marks their one-month anniversary. They have been well-received with no real outstanding issues. Google is now rolling out the latest firmware update for the 2020 Pixel Buds.

Out of the box, the Pixel Buds received a day one update from firmware version 195 to 225. As of this afternoon, 295 is rolling out for both earbuds and the case.

If you open “Device details” or the Pixel Buds app > “More settings” > “Firmware update,” there’s an “Update available” message. All users are seeing the update, with no tiered rollout.

Those with “Automatic updates” enabled will have the new firmware installed in the background. If it’s turned off, a “notification will appear on your device when an update is available.” In the latter scenario, you’ll have to re-enable the auto option to install.

If you’ve paired your Pixel Buds with a Pixel phone with Android 10+, or a compatible Android device with the Pixel Bud app and an internet connection, firmware updates should be automatically downloaded in the background and installed when the earbuds are in the case.

No release notes for 295 are currently available. Compared to the first-generation Pixel Buds, the 2020 model does not have a dedicated page detailing what’s new. These updates presumably deliver bug fixes and other usability patches, while major updates will likely be detailed in blog posts.

Google promised Feature Drops for Pixel Buds, with Find My Device capabilities not yet available, while we spotted work on “attention alerts” that detect crying and barking.

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Switzerland first to release COVID-19 app using Apple and Google Exposure Notification API

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The first app to take advantage of the Apple and Google Exposure Notification API has been released in Switzerland, according to a new report from the BBC. The app is called “SwissCovid” and is currently available to select essential workers.

As of right, members of the Swiss outlook as well as hospital workers and civil servants can install the SwissCovid app. A wider rollout is planned, but the report explains that in Switzerland, members of parliament must approve the app before it is widely released.

In Switzerland’s case, MPs must first debate and approve the scheme before it is offered to the general public. The government hopes this can be done by mid-June.

In Latvia, developers hope to release their Exposure Notification API to everyone by as soon as Thursday because a parliamentary vote is not required. The report says that Apple has already approved the app to appear in the App Store:

By contrast, the Latvian team – which has also incorporated the API – is able to proceed without a parliamentary vote, and hopes to offer its Apturi Covid app to the public as soon as Thursday.

A spokeswoman told the BBC that Apple had already approved the software to appear on its App Store, but the developers were still waiting for permission to list it on the Google Play marketplace. “Of course we would be very happy to be the first (national launch), but the most important thing is to help our inhabitants fights the virus,” she added.

When iOS 13.5 was released to the public last week, Apple said that a handful of U.S. states and 22 countries across five continents had requested and received access to the Exposure Notification API. We’re tracking the rollout in the United States in detail right here.

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