Android users finally get blue chat bubbles — but there's a catch

Google Messages on an Android phone screen
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Google Messages is rolling out a new feature that may take some of the sting out of the blue bubble/green bubble debate for Android owners. First previewed last November, the Custom Bubbles feature will let users change the color and background of their RCS (Rich Communication Services) chats. And while blue isn't the only option available, it's telling that all of Google's promotional pictures show Android chats with bright blue bubbles.

The feature isn't yet universally available but 9to5Google notes several stable user reports in recent days to show it's moved beyond the beta. Crucially, this feature is just for RCS chats and won't carry over to SMS. Once it's hit your device, you'll be able to select it by tapping the contact name (or the group name) inside the chat and selecting the "Change colors" option.

You'll then be presented with nine different options: Default (Material You Dynamic Color), Blue, Turquoise, Purple, Green, Orange, Fuchsia, Pink, and Monochrome. According to Google's support document, the theme will defer to default if you delete a chat with a selected theme or start a new chat with the same contact.

While the new theme will be applied to what you see, the person you're speaking to won't see any change unless they also have Custom Bubbles available. If they do, the change will be synced across conversations.  

Custom Bubbles was announced in line with Google confirming over 1 billion active monthly users of Google Messages with RCS enabled. The company stated that being able to color-code your conversations would avoid you “accidentally texting your family group chat a weekend update meant for your friend.”

Google Custom Bubbles feature in RCS messages

(Image credit: Google)

Several other message upgrades were also announced, including Photomoji, which uses AI to transform photos into reactions and screen effect animations — like an eruption of hearts when you receive an I love you

There's also animated emoji and reaction effects that supercharge your standard thumbs up or smiley face emoji into a little animation.   

Will this work on an iPhone?

Apple Messages app on iPhone

(Image credit: Future)

Don't think that Google's Custom Bubbles feature rollout will end the great Android/iOS bubble stalemate. While Apple has confirmed it will be adopting the RCS Messaging standard on iOS this year, the company is keeping Android devices firmly in their green zone.

Apple confirmed to 9to5Google that while RCS will bring plenty of iMessage-style features to texts between Android and iOS (think read receipts and typing indicators), iPhone-to-iPhone messages will continue to appear blue, while messages from Android devices will be green. Why? Well, it's apparently because Apple wants to clearly mark what it believes to be the best and most secure way for people to communicate: from one iPhone to another, via iMessage.

More from Tom's Guide

Jeff Parsons
UK Editor In Chief

Jeff is UK Editor-in-Chief for Tom’s Guide looking after the day-to-day output of the site’s British contingent. Rising early and heading straight for the coffee machine, Jeff loves nothing more than dialling into the zeitgeist of the day’s tech news.

A tech journalist for over a decade, he’s travelled the world testing any gadget he can get his hands on. Jeff has a keen interest in fitness and wearables as well as the latest tablets and laptops. A lapsed gamer, he fondly remembers the days when problems were solved by taking out the cartridge and blowing away the dust.

  • Joey121215
    The default color on messages has always been blue bubbles OMG lol
  • JFlex1219
    admin said:
    Google Messages is rolling out a new feature called Custom Bubbles that lets you change the color of RCS chats.

    Android users finally get blue chat bubbles — but there's a catch : Read more
    Does anyone really care what color their bubble is on someone else's phone
  • Sonofnothing
    9 colors, holy crap. Ever hear of Chomp or Textra?
  • Drewzilla
    JFlex1219 said:
    Does anyone really care what color their bubble is on someone else's phone

    You'd be shocked. It's considered a red flag in dating with some GenZ folks.
  • nickanthony275
    "No more blue bubble envy"

    This isn't a thing. Maybe it's something people in the iPhone cult think exists but it does not. There isn't a single android user alive that gives a hoot what color our bubble is on someone else's phone. I care about my own phone and because it isn't an apple product, I'm allowed to change my text bubbles to whatever I want.