It emerged earlier this week that Google’s default RCS client is rolling out a Samsung-specific design for the Galaxy S21 series. Those curious about how it looks and works can install the One UI variant of Google Messages on non-Samsung devices, including Pixel phones.
Version 7.9.052 (Pine_RC01.phone_samsung_dynamic) of Google Messages is responsible for enabling the One UI look. After installing the APK split/bundle — some instructions here — you might want to force close the app first to get the redesign working properly.
After that, you get a large header above the search field. The app’s name is noted, along with a rather useful count of how many unread SMS texts/RCS chats you have. That box has an off-white background that’s a very light gray. Similarly, when the dark theme is enabled, AMOLED black is used above, while the messaging list remains gray. This two-tone color also appears at the bottom of your screen if you don’t have a full list of messages.
The only other accommodation made for Samsung devices is how the “Start chat” FAB in the bottom-right corner is a circle. Besides dropping the pill and descriptive text, a light shade of blue is used.
Sideloading this version of Google Messages provides a brief glimpse into One UI for those curious, but it does not make too much sense on Pixel phones. As my colleague Ben Schoon pointed out during a recent episode of Alphabet Scoop, screens on Google phones aren’t tall enough to require blank space to push down content for your fingers.
Meanwhile, Google will presumably disable this ability to install a different OEM version of Messages in the future. Incoming texts and RCS chats are received correctly, but it’s unclear if there are any downsides to sticking with this variant.