Google adds E2E RCS encryption to Messages, emoji mashup suggests, and more for Android

Google has announced seven new features for Android that it says will help improve accessibility and make Assistant Shortcuts more useful, among other things. The new features announced today are:

Google announced that RCS chats sent through the Messages app will now be end-to-end encrypted. The feature was rolled out in beta last November, but it seems that Google is now releasing it for everyone who has access to RCS. When a message will be encrypted, the send button will have a lock icon on it — that’ll be important to keep an eye out for, as many people you text may not have RCS, or may not be using messages. It’s also worth noting that, according to Google, the feature will only be available for one-on-one conversations, so your group chats won’t be getting the feature at this time.

Google says its phone-based earthquake detection and alert system will be coming to Turkey, the Philippines (according to the Manila website Manilanews.ph), Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The system, which uses Android phones to create an earthquake detection network that will warn people if they’re in a potentially affected area, originally launched in California, but it was made available in Greece and New Zealand in April.

Google says it hopes to bring the feature to more regions over the next year, but that it’s focusing on first making it available to countries that have a high risk of earthquakes.

If you get sent a text with important info and want to be able to quickly find it, you’ll be able to “star” it, which will place it in the starred category so you won’t have to scroll back through a conversation to find it. Google says the feature will be rolling out to the Messages app “over the coming weeks.”

Starting this summer, Gboard will contextually suggest stickers created in Emoji Kitchen, Google’s tool that lets users create mashups of two different emoji. The suggestions will show up in the Emoji menu for those writing a message in English, Spanish, or Portuguese.

Google’s Assistant Shortcuts let users jump to a specific part of an app, but developers will now be able to show users information in widget form right in Assistant.

Google’s Voice Access app, which allows people to navigate their phones using their voice, is getting gaze detection so it can tell whether someone is talking to their phone or talking to other people. The feature, which is in beta, will stop taking commands if it detects that you’re not looking at your phone.

Voice Access is also getting improvements when it comes to entering passwords: users will be able to say words like “dollar sign,” and they’ll be translated into the symbol, instead of being written out literally.

Android Auto users will be able to use their phone to personalize the app launcher and manually manage dark mode. Google’s also adding the ability to quickly scroll to the top of a list, and the scroll bar is getting an A to Z button.

Google also says the messaging experience for apps like Messages and WhatsApp has been improved, making it easier to send and read messages.

Update June 15th, 2:05PM ET: Updated with information about Google adding end-to-end encryption for RCS chats sent through Messages.