Google's surprise update makes Android look more like the iPhone

If you buy a high-end Samsung or iPhone, there's not much to choose between. It's the Android operating system that has always been the catch. But now Google is slowly changing that as well, which is causing a lot of anger among users…

Update 3/3 below; The article was originally published 3/1.

Android is changing – this year we've seen an exciting focus on AI upgrades to existing apps, as well as tougher security measures on risky apps and the third-party app store ecosystem. And later this year, we'll finally see an update to text messaging between Android and iPhone, with Apple's reluctant RCS concession.

One of the themes here is control. Apple does this largely across its ecosystem, while Google, through Android, has not traditionally done so. But this is changing. Google is focusing heavily on the walled garden elements of the Play ecosystem, including… Additional protection Available to huge user base.

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We've just seen the latest examples of Google's “Play” style for Android becoming more iPhone-like than ever. According to reports, users with rooted devices – taken outside the semi-walled garden – can no longer use RCS.

As explained by A Reddit The thread that highlighted the issue: “As of 2024, Google is now quietly blocking RCS messages on rooted Android devices. Even if your device's bootloader is only unlocked, it's now at risk of being quietly shadow blocked from sending messages RCS text.

A Google spokesperson told me that “ensuring that message senders/receivers follow operating procedures defined by the RCS standard is one way Google Messages prevents spam and abuse,” and that “as we fight spammers and scammers, we take into account various indicators “

Not a popular move for those affected. “Shadowbanning is one of the more classic Orwellian tools in the censorship toolbox, being used against people who paid full price for a device and pay monthly for cellular service,” the original poster complained on Reddit. “Google is now going full throttle rejecting your connections.”

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“A significant volume of RCS spam comes from automation, which is typically based on modifications to the transmitter,” a Google spokesperson explained. “Our spam prevention technologies are constantly evolving in response to the changing behavior of spammers. We will continue to look for ways to prevent spam and fraud while reducing the number of users affected.

It can be difficult to solve problems. According to another poster on Reddit, “My Pixel 7 Pro and RCS went down (again) this morning. Worse still, there's a chance things won't magically switch to SMS on other people's phones because your RCS is down. You won't receive text messages Of people.

This poster described the update as “ apples “Google,” and that perfectly sums up what we're seeing here. The old user-first, buyer-beware philosophy is changing fast, and the latest AI upgrades will provide more control the Google way. This has implications for users, and for Android OEMs, including That's Samsung, who have to navigate a Google tightrope when they push original innovation.

There is an alternative solution that seems to work, at least for now. according to 9to5Google“Those smart enough to gain root access have found a straightforward enough solution that involves bypassing the security feature (Play Integrity API) that appears to be responsible for blocking access to RCS.”

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It is difficult to know whether any solutions will stick or not. Another poster on Reddit suggests that there may be a cat-and-mouse game going on behind the scenes as Google tightens its measures. “People have been fighting the gameplay integration/device integration API pretty hard for the last few weeks now. Over the last few years, it was relatively easy to bypass it. Now, suddenly, things are breaking much more quickly, and you're fighting the same solutions that have been working for years.” .

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While this poster and others refer to this as Orwellian, the interesting aspect is that most Android users within the Google ecosystem want broadly the same level of security and protection as their iPhone counterparts. As such, I don't see this type of tightening changing any time soon.

While banning banking apps and wallet functions makes sense, banning RCS would be much less popular. “This is unethical [and] “Despicable,” complains the original Reddit poster. “I'm willing to give up my banking apps, but being blocked from communicating is completely over the top.”

Update 3/1: This RCS campaign isn't the only Android shift toward iPhone evolution we've seen this week — another one seems more pronounced. Google appears to be borrowing one of Apple's recent groundbreaking innovations for its own devices, and it's now showing up on the devices.

Google has started updating Pixel phones with the “Satellite SOS” feature seen on Apple devices from the iPhone 14 onwards. As he explained 9to5Google“If you delve into Settings > Safety & Emergency on a Pixel phone today, you're very likely to see 'Satellite SOS' pop up between Emergency SOS and Car Crash Detection. It appears Google has made a mistake, rolling out the setting broadly across all of its devices. Pixel is almost here with the latest Adaptive Connectivity Services update.

on iPhone“Satellite Emergency SOS can help you communicate with emergency services under exceptional circumstances when there are no other means of reaching emergency services. If you call or text emergency services and are unable to connect because you are somewhere where there is no coverage For mobile and Wi-Fi, your iPhone will attempt to connect to you via satellite.

However, with Google, none of that has been implemented yet. The feature appears to be pre-release and not working yet. But based on some of the links shared, it looks like there may be an optional search and rescue plan available from Garmin that works in conjunction with the satellite SOS feature.

Finally, the scaling up of these kind of features, coupled with the shared focus on generative AI that Google and Samsung are rapidly advancing as Apple prepares to catch up with iOS 18, means that flagship devices from both of these OEMs will get closer and closer than ever before. In features and performance. While satellite SOS will be useful to a small percentage of Android users, the AI ​​differentiation that will be evident when Apple eventually gets going will be more important.

This was the main topic at last week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, ​​with Apple noticeably absent. Samsung is desperate to differentiate itself from the rest of the field with Galaxy AI, as was evident from the Barcelona company's rebranding, but Apple and Google will be hard to beat. This is especially true given Samsung's reliance on Google for its core operating system, at least for now.

For many reasons, 2024 looks like a year to watch…

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