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Saturday, June 15, 2024

End-to-End Encryption Is Coming to Android Group Chats

Group chats can be chaotic enough without unwanted participants poking around. That’s why it would be nice to have an extra layer of security to keep all that hot goss contained. To that end, Google has opened a beta program allowing users of the Messages app on Android phones to sign up to have their group chats encrypted.

Google announced the beta in May. For participating Android users, chats inside Messages that are encrypted will show lock icons next to their chat bubble. End-to-end encryption has been enabled in Google’s Messages app for texts between individual users, but once this beta test is complete, full end-to-end encryption will be expanded to group chats too.

Google started testing end-to-end encryption in Messages in 2020, bringing greater security to users of Android’s default texting app. This latest step is a win for Android, but it’s also part of the company’s ongoing effort to push adoption of the RCS communications standard for text messaging across devices. For months, Google has been on the warpath against Apple’s use of the SMS and MMS texting standards for cross-platform communications. Google’s encryption works only on RCS, and not for messages sent on SMS.

Here’s some more news from the world of consumer tech.

Apple’s Headset Tech Gets a New Name

According to leaks reported by Bloomberg, Apple has renamed its software platform for running augmented- and virtual-reality applications. It’s a small move that may indicate Apple is inching ever closer to finally announcing its long anticipated mixed-reality headset. The new name, xrOS, replaces the previous working moniker of RealityOS.

Leaks about the headset have dripped out steadily for months. As it goes with Apple, no details or features have officially been confirmed. However, the new name would imply that the headset and the application that run on it will have both AR and VR features—a combo known in the industry as extended reality or mixed reality. There are also no hints about a release date, though it seems increasingly likely that Apple could announce the device next year.

Apple’s offering—whatever it is—will likely be going head-to-head (get it) with Meta’s recently announced Meta Quest Pro AR-VR headset. Also set to go to market next year is Sony’s PlayStation VR2 system. VR is about to get very crowded, whether or not consumers actually want to fully dive into the technology.

New Gorilla Glass

Good news for chronic phone breakers: A new, stronger version of Gorilla Glass may be coming soon to a screen near you. Corning, the company that makes Gorilla Glass, showed off its new Victus 2 material this week in product videos where it ran tests that simulated cracking the glass against concrete. The company says the new formulation withstood a drop of a meter onto the famously unforgiving surface. (That’s 3.28 feet in American.) That may not seem like much, but hopefully it could alleviate some of that terror you feel when you accidentally fling your phone while fumbling to get it out of your pants pocket.

The company says the Victus 2 material can withstand an extra meter if it’s dropped on asphalt or a surface softer than concrete. The glass hasn’t made its way into any new phone models; look for it in next year’s crop of handsets.

Buying Time

While shopping online recently, you’ve probably noticed those buy now, pay later options at checkout. Like it says in the name, these services let you purchase what you want and pay it off over time, in installments. Do it within a short enough time and you can avoid the interest fees that come with credit cards. It’s an appealing option for cash-strapped buyers looking to make a big purchase. Thing is, people aren’t using BNPL services just to buy expensive items. They’re also using them more and more for basic necessities like gas and groceries.

This week on WIRED’s Gadget Lab podcast, we talk about the buy now, pay later business model and what it means for your wallet.

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