Apple takes credit for Google adding iMessage reactions to Android

Before Google’s “Get The Message” campaign in August, Android’s Messages app was updated with iMessage reactions earlier this year. In a very strange twist, Apple seems to be taking credit for Google adding iMessage reactions to Android.

As discovered by David Imel today, Apple’s iOS 16 “All New Features” page lists the following addition to the Messages app:

SMS Tapbacks on Android

Respond to SMS messages with a Tapback and a corresponding emoji reaction will appear on the recipients’ Android devices.

That text was added to the page recently, presumably with the launch of iOS 16 earlier this month. It was not listed during the iOS 16 preview cycle over the summer.

In late January, Google announced that its Messages app would convert iMessage reactions (known as “Tapbacks”) that iPhone users can send. Instead of appearing as annoying text (eg Loved “Testing” in the example below), it’s translated and displayed in the corner of the message bubble, similar to the iPhone-to-iPhone experience.

Apple seems to be taking credit for Google adding iMessage reactions to Android’s Messages app in a rather odd decision that isn’t factual. Although Apple’s description reflects the end-user experience, iMessage reactions on Android are not the result of the iPhone’s new operating system or anything Apple has done/contributed. This feature was rolled out in the iOS 15 era and is not available for all Android SMS/RCS apps, only Google’s default client.

One possible explanation is that Apple’s marketing copy conflates this Google feature with a similar one added by iOS 16. If an iPhone owner is in a group chat with Android and other iOS users, all messages are sent via SMS instead of iMessage. Before iOS 16, Tapbacks would be sent as SMS. In these cases, iOS 16, like Google, now converts Tapbacks for iPhone users so that only the emoji is displayed. But if that’s the feature Apple describes — it doesn’t appear on the page — the copy doesn’t need to mention Android.

This of course follows Tim Cook’s “I don’t hear our users asking, we’re putting a lot of energy into it” statement at RCS for iPhone earlier this month.

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