Google Messages and RCS have been in the news frequently this year, with the main highlight being Apple’s announcement that it will support RCS in 2024. It’s big news, even if Android users will continue to be nothing more than “Green bubbles” in the eyes of elitist iPhone owners. Building on that exciting RCS news, there’s even more to share now.
It appears that somewhat recently, most likely sometime around the launch of the Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro, Google Messages adopted support for Ultra HDR images inside of RCS chats. For those utilizing a smartphone with Android 14 and equipped with a premium display and camera, this is beneficial news.
Ultra HDR is, in simple terms, an updated .jpg format. Thanks to an embedded HDR gain map in a photo’s metadata, Ultra HDR photos taken and shown on a phone with an SDR display will show as a regular SD photo. However, when that same Ultra HDR photo is rendered on a phone with an HDR display, the photo will appear as brighter and more colorful, thanks to this behind-the-scenes work.
If you own a Pixel 8 or Pixel 8 Pro, you have maybe seen this effect in action when opening a supported photo — it’s as if elements of the photo lighten up right before your eyes. It’s pretty sweet.
Anyway, this format is inside of Messages when sent as an RCS chat. After a brief amount of testing with Kellen, we recommend you first head into your Messages settings menu and disable “Send photos faster.” This will ensure you’re sending the largest (highest quality) file possible. Additionally, because the format is rather new, editing Ultra HDR photos can be tricky, as some apps/service will erase the HDR gain map, essentially turning your fancy photo back into a lame one. It’s reported that Adobe Lightroom can handle Ultra HDR just fine, but Google Photos does not.
It’s good times for RCS.