Google rolls back Android Messages to old design and removes dark mode

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

On Thursday, it looked as though Google was starting to roll out a redesigned version of its vital Android Messages app. The update featured some visual changes like getting rid of the blue bar at the top and switching over to the company’s Google Sans font. It also included a dark mode as an alternative to the default, so-much-white look.

But late last night, as Reddit users were quick to notice, Google reverted to the old Android Messages design — even for those who had already installed the most recent update. If you had the new Messages yesterday, open it up today and you’ll see that it’s gone. Yes, Google has the server-side ability to change the look of Messages on a dime.

Some users had complained about losing the option to assign custom colors to chat bubbles for their different contacts, but it’s rather unlikely that Google would reverse course over that bit of feedback alone. Perhaps dark mode was causing some issues, or there was another bug the company discovered, or the revamped Messages started appearing before Google actually intended.

Oh well. It looked good. Hopefully it returns soon.

Comments

It’s pretty creepy that they can push out — and then take back — an interface change like this from the server without having to push an update through the app store. I might expect that from a web-connected app like Facebook Messenger, but not from a dumb SMS app. I know that all of Google’s apps are fundamentally spyware, but it seems odd that they would shove it in users’ face like this for something so trivial as this.

Server side enabling of features has been quite common for a long time now. From a development POV it’s effective because you don’t need to roll out new application installs for simple updates / promos / enabling problematic features.

Sure, great for Google, but still creepy from the consumer’s point of view.

I don’t think it’s a Google side switch or anything.

I think, however, it reports to Google what your settings are. This is likely intended for backup purposes, so when you restore it restores to how you had it.
The server then says, no this shouldn’t be this way right now. Either it isn’t meant to be officially out, or something else. So the server responds by telling your app to revert.

It is Google’s app, after all. It completely and totally makes sense to me, and I don’t see how you could consider it "creepy" in any way, considering you’re backing up every bit of your contacts, SMS info, everything about your device to Google’s servers.

"I don’t think it’s a Google side switch or anything.
I think, however, it reports to Google what your settings are. This is likely intended for backup purposes, so when you restore it restores to how you had it.
The server then says, no this shouldn’t be this way right now. Either it isn’t meant to be officially out, or something else. So the server responds by telling your app to revert."

If Google’s servers are telling the app on your phone what to do, how is it not a switch on Google’s end?

I just wish Google would offer Dark Mode when viewing the Google News site using the Google Chrome browser on an Android phone, like they did until a few months ago

Google News & Weather app on Android has a dark mode if that helps.

But I am not backing up my contacts, SMS or anything else to Google’s servers.

They didn’t just take away the dark mode setting, the entire theme of the app changed. Different fonts, colours, tweaked layout. It wasn’t something an end user could turn on and off.

Feature flags are so common. Go be ignorant somewhere else.

Feature flagging is common industry practice and is fine. Probably all your apps do it. You don’t have to be upset with everything. Try to pick the things that are worth being upset about and ignore the little things like this. You’ll be happier if you do.

Everything about google is creepy from a consumer point of view. This is the least of your worries.

Google as a whole is kind of creepy.

As long as it is more useful than creepy…

True, but the division between the two are at different places for different users.

The visual refresh wasnt just a server side update. It required users to be on a brand new update which was android messages 3.5. Once they downloaded it (most side loaded since it was an early stage rollout) they had the visual refresh.

You could not get the redesign on the previous (current) version.

Stop being dramatic.

When I updated to the new version, I still had the old interface for a day. I was like, "WTF, where’s the dark mode??" And then the next day it changed to the new interface, where the dark mode could be selected… And then it changed back again with no input from me. I understand that this is something that is technically possible, but it’s not something that should happen. Apps like Google Assistant, it makes sense that Google would enable/disable features on the server side, because it’s fundamentally a web-connected app. There’s no logical reason that the UI for an SMS app should be pinging a server saying "what do you want me to look like?", and overriding the user’s preference.

Server side switches are not exclusive to Google and I doubt they are going away anytime soon. And what apps are you using that aren’t web connected? Calculator?

Weird post… "creepy" and "shove it in the users’ face"…

Did a Google employee steal your wife from you or something?

Something isn’t spyware if it’s abundantly clear what Google’s business model is.

Is Google actually Bowser?

Revert back?

God damnit. Last night I noticed this and was like wtf.

The dark mode was light years better. Fuck off Google, really annoying me lately

They probably found a bug or something that required them to roll it back, I’m sure it’ll be coming back shortly enough.

And that, folks, is how we do A/B tests in the software development industry. It can be cruel sometimes.

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