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Google Messages preparing end-to-end encryption for RCS messages

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Today, the folks at APKMirror got ahold of an internal “dogfood” build of Google Messages version 6.2. Here, “dogfood” is used in the sense of the phrase “eat your own dog food,” meaning actually use the product you’re building. Of course, our APK Insight team immediately dug in to see what all is coming with the next version of Google Messages. While we’re still actively looking through the many changes found within, one in particular stood out — end-to-end encryption for RCS messages.

About APK Insight: In this “APK Insight” post, we’ve decompiled the latest version of an application that Google uploaded to the Play Store. When we decompile these files (called APKs, in the case of Android apps), we’re able to see various lines of code within that hint at possible future features. Keep in mind that Google may or may not ever ship these features, and our interpretation of what they are may be imperfect. We’ll try to enable those that are closer to being finished, however, to show you how they’ll look in case that they do ship. With that in mind, read on.

RCS end-to-end encryption

For years now, folks have been excited about RCS messaging as being the true successor to SMS and MMS messages and an open competitor to Apple’s iMessage. However, one thing that iMessage has long offered that RCS could not is the ability to know your messages are secure thanks to end-to-end encryption. For an over simplified explanation of end-to-end encryption, your message is encrypted on your device in such a way that it can only be decrypted and read on the recipient’s device, meaning no one should be able to snoop on your conversation.

In this dogfood build of Google Messages 6.2, we’ve found that work is well under way to allow you to send end-to-end encrypted messages via RCS. In fact, there are a total of twelve new strings in the app that make reference to encryption (sometimes shortened to “e2ee”).

End-to-End Encrypted Rich Communication Service message

Send end-to-end encrypted message

Chatting end-to-end encrypted with %s

End-to-end encrypted message

For now, there aren’t enough details to know for sure what the exact requirements are for using this end-to-end encryption. It’s possible that both parties will need to be using the Google Messages app, though this could change once more apps gain support.

What we do know for certain is that both the sender and recipient will need to have a good internet connection simultaneously for these end-to-end encrypted RCS messages to go through. If either of you has a poor connection, Google Messages will offer to send your message through SMS or MMS as a fallback method. Before sending in this way though, the app will remind you that SMS and MMS are not encrypted and ask for your consent.

Resend as chat

Send unencrypted messages?

”SMS/MMS texts aren’t end-to-end encrypted.nnTo send with end-to-end encryption, wait for improved data connection or send messages now as SMS/MMS.”

Send unencrypted

Wait

”SMS/MMS texts aren’t end-to-end encrypted.nnTo send with end-to-end encryption, wait until %1$s has data connection or send messages now as SMS/MMS.”

Interestingly, it looks like Google Messages will also have extra protections in place for your end-to-end encrypted RCS messages. For example, you’ll be able to set whether other Android apps that have permission to see your messages can also see your encrypted messages. You’ll also be reminded that your messages are encrypted when sharing your location.

Let other apps access end-to-end encrypted messages

Send end-to-end encrypted message with selected location %1$s

As all of this is only just beginning to appear in a “dogfood” build of Google Messages, we still have a bit of waiting to do before end-to-end encryption arrives for RCS. That said, it’s clear Google wants RCS to be a legitimate competitor to iMessage, matching it both in features like message reactions for the everyday user and ones like encryption for the more security conscious.

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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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