If you have an Android phone, you should know about two new updates to Android that Google announced this past week. The updates add new features to Android phones to make them more useful.
Google Assistant comes to more phones
Google Assistant is Google's digital assistant that carries out voice commands, similar to Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa. Since Google Assistant was launched in October, the service has only been available on Google's Pixel and Pixel XL phones, Google Home smart speaker, Android Wear smart watches, and Allo messaging app.
Earlier this week Google announced that many more phones will be getting Google Assistant. The update including Google Assistant will be available to phones running Android 6.0, or Marshmallow, and 7.0, or Nougat, as well as phones made by companies HTC, Huawei, LG, Samsung, and Sony.
Google said the update would arrive this week for English speakers in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. German speakers in Germany should also get the update this week. Additional languages will be added during 2017.
To receive the update, make sure you have an eligible phone and have downloaded the Google Play Services app onto the phone.
After the update you can press the home button or say, "OK Google" to begin using Google Assistant. Then start asking questions such as, "What is the weather forecast?" and Google Assistant will answer based on where you are.
In its announcement, Google said, "Our goal is to make the Assistant available anywhere you need it." In January, the company announced plans to bring Google Assistant to televisions and cars later this year.
New Android message app
Google also announced a major update to one of its messaging apps. With this update, the app changes its name from Android Messenger to Android Messages.
Android Messages will become the default text messaging app for Android phones. This app will be pre-installed on Android phones from manufacturers LG, Motorola, Sony, and others. Android Messages will also come pre-installed with Google's Pixel and Pixel XL phones.
Users of other phones can download the Android Messages app from the Google Play store.
Android Messages is one of three messaging apps from Google. The others are Allo and Google Hangouts.
A future update to the Android Messages app will make text messages more powerful by changing from SMS, meaning Short Messaging Services, to RCS, or Rich Communications Services. When updated to RCS, Android Messages will offer features such as receipts that show when a message has been read, stickers, maps and more.
RCS messages on Android Messages will be available on phones from partner cell phone service providers. Google's announcement stated that these partners include Sprint, Rogers, Telenor, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and Globe.
These features will only be available for messages sent and received within the Android Messages app. Those who do not use the app, such as iPhone owners, will not share in those features. iPhone owners do have these features in iMessage, however.
Android messages RCS interactive features
Google is working with companies to add helpful interactive features to their RCS text messages. In the announcement, Google gave the example of an airline that could send a passenger a text "to provide a full check-in experience, complete with boarding pass, visual flight updates, and terminal maps on demand."
Initial partners for RCS Android Messages include companies Virgin Trains, Walgreens, Amber Alert Europe, Baskin-Robbins, BlaBlaCar and FICO. Gamestop, Philips, Subway, Time Inc., and Uber are among the others.
What we do not yet know about Android messages
Google did not announce a date when RCS on Android Messages will be available. The name of the app already has been changed to Android Messages in the Google Play store.
We also do not know how users will be able to learn whether the person they are sending a text to has the RCS version of the Android Messages app. For example, in iMessage for iPhone, the text bubbles are blue for those who use iMessage and green for those who do not use it.
I’m June Simms. And I’m Jonathan Evans.
Words in This Story
update - n. a change or addition to computer software that includes the most recent information
digital assistant - n. an application program that can understand natural language and complete electronic tasks for the user
eligible - adj. able to do or receive something
default - n. a setting, option, etc., that a computer or cell phone uses if you do not choose a different one
pre-install - v. download onto a computer or phone before it is sold
iMessage - n. the text messaging service from Apple used on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers