Are you texting somebody on your Android phone, and see a lock message within or near the conversation thread?
This can be confusing to see, especially if it just happened recently for the first time, or you aren’t sure what it means.
Thankfully, it’s not something to worry about, and there’s actually an interesting explanation for it!
In this article, I’ll be going over what the lock icon actually means, and how you can disable it if you want to.
What Does The Lock Symbol Mean On My Text Messages?
If you see a lock icon on your messages, this typically means that the messages are sent via end-to-end encryption.
This is a new feature introduced in June 2021 for Android phones (like the Google Pixel) that increases the security of messages, ensuring that they cannot be intercepted in transit, or read by others.
Note however that this feature only works when…
- You have a phone that offers RCS, which stands for ‘rich communication services.’ RCS is meant to replace the traditional SMS that’s been used for decades, and offers many upgrades and improvements over traditional SMS.
- The other person that you’re sending a message to also has an Android phone with RCS enabled.
This is why you may only see the lock icon when talking with certain people, for example.
Essentially, the RCS encryption feature exists to improve the security of messages, similar to Apple’s iMessage. Hence, the lock icon is there to show you when it’s enabled for a specific conversation.
What Does Encryption Mean, Anyway?
The word ‘encryption’ is thrown around a lot when it comes to modern tech, especially when discussing matters related to security.
But what does it actually mean?
Essentially, it is a tool that can be used to obfuscate data, so it cannot be read.
Imagine that you had a secret language, that only you and the other person you’re talking to understood. If someone else were to peek in and spy on your conversation, they wouldn’t be able to understand what was actually being said – even if they could read the contents.
When an encrypted message is sent, the data is jumbled up so it cannot be read or understood by any third-party – even your cellular provider. Then, the person receiving the message uses a ‘key’ stored on their device to decrypt the message, allowing them to read it as normal.
So, it allows your messages to be sent and received in a more secure manner, where other parties couldn’t look into the message’s contents even if they wanted to.
What Else Could The Lock Icon Mean?
If you have reason to believe that the lock icon isn’t caused by encrypted messages being sent, then what else could it be?
After all, perhaps your phone doesn’t actually support RCS, or you just know it’s got to be something else.
Depending on your phone model, it’s also possible that the lock icon is there to indicate the message cannot be deleted – at least not without unlocking it first.
For example, if you were to delete an entire message thread from someone, locking a few messages would ensure those messages remained, even if rest of the thread was deleted.
This can be useful for ensuring that important messages do not end up getting removed or deleted by mistake.
To see if a message was locked this way, tap and hold on the message.
From here, if you see an option that says ‘unlock’, you’ll know this is the cause of the lock icon appearing.
Of course, this option only appears on some Android phones, running certain messaging clients. So, it won’t be the cause of the lock icon appearing for many phones.
How To Disable RCS On Your Device
If you no longer want RCS to be enabled on your device – and you do not want your messages to be encrypted, don’t worry!
Thankfully, disabling RCS is a pretty simple process, and only takes a few moments to carry out.
To disable RCS on Android, follow these steps:
- Open the Messages app that you use to send / receive text messages.
- Open the menu, by tapping on the icon with three dots (or your profile picture.)
- Tap on ‘Settings.’
- Tap on ‘Chat features.’
- Toggle ‘Enable chat features’ to off.
And that’s all there is to it!
Unless you have a specific reason for turning it off however, I highly recommend that you avoid doing so.
Among the additional new features that RCS provides, having your messages sent with end-to-encryption makes your messages far more secure.
There are no benefits to disabling it, and you do not lose anything by leaving it enabled.
So, although the lock icon may be annoying to see, it really is for your own benefit!
Note: Some people have reported that they experienced troubles after disabling RCS, that were solved after turning their phone off and back on again. So, if you experience trouble sending messages, try restarting your phone in order to fix the issue!
If you see a lock symbol on your text messages, this typically means that the message is end-to-end encrypted. However, on some phone models this can also mean that the message cannot be deleted.
If you’d like, you can disable RCS in your phone’s settings, which will disable the encryption used to secure your messages.
I hope that you’ve found this article helpful, and that it’s answered all of your questions.
If you have any other questions about texting on Android, please ask them below and I’ll be happy to help.
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister