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iOS 16 fixes the worst thing about group texts with Android users

With iOS 16, Apple is updating the Messages app to fix an irritating design choice it made when it introduced Tapbacks. It’ll now render these reactions when sent in group chats with Android users so they appear as they would when sent between iPhone users.

While messages between iPhones and messages between Android phones via their native apps take advantage of iMessage and RCS, respectively, the same isn’t true for group chats that fall back on the tired old MMS protocol. When someone reacts to a message in a cross-platform group, their reaction gets sent as a text to every member of the group — resulting in the notorious “laughed at” spam. It’s irritating for everyone involved and is one cause of the infamous “green bubble” dislike.

Close up detail of a man iMessaging on an iPhone.
Neil Godwin / Future/Getty Images

Google has fixed this problem for Android users, allowing them to receive these reactions as proper reactions and not spam texts. So Apple, naturally, had to fix it as well. If you’re in an Android/iPhone text conversation and someone reacts to a message, iPhone users will also now see those reactions as intended. It’s a minor tweak on paper, but one that should make multi-OS group chatting much more enjoyable. iOS 16 also adds a slew of other messaging features, including editing messages, undo send, and SharePlay support.

The messaging battle between Google and Apple has heated up ever since the former failed to successfully launch a messaging service of its own — and instead resorted to the carrier-backed RCS. While it’s a successor to SMS and has several ‘modern’ features (including typing indicators, reactions, and support for file-sharing), Apple has yet to adopt it. Google has frequently urged the company to change its position — even resorting to public shaming — but Apple is unlikely to do so and has met Google’s demands with little more than a pointed silence. iMessage works for iPhone users, and for those who would rather use Android phones, Apple is likely to point to the wealth of cross-platform messaging apps in the App Store.

iOS 16 is rolling out to iPhones starting with the iPhone 8 and newer this fall. The developer beta is live now, and a public beta will go live in the coming weeks.

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