Google announced several Android updates on Tuesday, including the continued rollout of end-to-end encrypted messages and an earthquake detection system.
After months of testing, users of Android’s built-in Messages app now have the option to encrypt their messages. “End-to-end encryption is available in one-to-one conversations between Messages users who have chat functions enabled,” the company said. A padlock symbol at the top of the chat visually appears to indicate that a conversation is encrypted.
In November, Google announced that it plans to automatically upgrade chat security when possible, but that involved both participants having RCS chat features enabled. RCS is not compatible with Apple’s iMessage protocol.
Seismic alerts in countries at risk
Another novelty: seismic alerts. They were first announced in August, and use smartphone accelerometers to detect sudden ground movements.
If the phone detects an earthquake, it sends a signal to Google’s earthquake detection server, along with the location of where the earthquake occurred. The server will then combine the information it has received from multiple Android phones to determine if an earthquake is occurring. Finally, if an earthquake is detected, the system will automatically send warning alerts to Android devices so that people can find shelter or safer ground.
The system is already operational in New Zealand and Greece. Turkey, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan will join soon. “We are prioritizing the launch of seismic alerts in countries with the highest earthquake risk, and we hope to launch them in an increasing number of countries in the coming year,” the company says.
Google also says it has introduced the ability for voice control to work only when the user is looking at the screen, as well as better voice entry of passwords.