We all know how annoying group conversations can be when one of the bubbles is green, but it’s about to get better. Google’s solution to iPhone “tapbacks” is rolling out to Android phones beginning today and it’s very slick.
Tapbacks in iMessage are the reactions that appear when you long-press on a text. On the iPhone, you can choose one of six reactions and they appear above the message when texting between iPhone users. But when an Android user joins a group conversation, tapbacks become clunky text strings that clutter the conversation with “Mike laughed at” or “Karen loved” before repeating the entire message.
That’s gotten a whole lot better now. We were able to test the feature on a Pixel 5 and the implementation is surprisingly solid. Instead of “Jason liked this message” when an iPhone user selects a tapback, Android users will see small emoji under the message rather than above it, but otherwise they function just like they would if they were using an iPhone.
As a result, iPhone users won’t have their conversations cluttered with tapback explainer texts anymore and Android users won’t feel like second-class citizens. Conversations will be uninterrupted—a true win-win and the smartest messaging feature Google’s implemented in years.
To get the feature, you must be using the Google Messages app and have the Show iPhone reactions as emoji toggle turned on in the Advanced settings. It appears to work with every carrier, though the rollout is staggered. As of now, it only appears to be live on some Pixel phones. WhatsApp is also reportedly readying its own tapback system that should appear in an upcoming WhatsApp beta before rolling out to users.
The emoji don’t exactly line up with Apple’s reactions, but they’re relatively close enough where there shouldn’t be too much confusion. Here’s what Google has chosen for the six tapback responses:
Thumbs Up: 👍
Thumbs Down: 👎
Exclamation points: 😮
Question mark: 🤔
Tapping the emoji brings up a banner at bottom of the screen that says “Translated from iPhone” with the appropriate emoji. Responses come in as quickly as a text message would and even have a nice bit of animation that all feels incredibly natural.
Google’s solution to one of the most annoying parts of the iMessage experience is admirable. While some may take issue with the choice of emoji, it’s hard to not be impressed with the results. As with all things Android, it’ll take a while for it to become widespread, but it’s safe to say that one of the biggest annoyances about texting between iPhones and Android phones has been solved.
Update 2/3:WhatsApp is also working on its own tapback solution.
Michael Simon has been covering Apple since the iPod was the iWalk. His obsession with technology goes back to his first PC—the IBM Thinkpad with the lift-up keyboard for swapping out the drive. He's still waiting for that to come back in style tbh.