We recently reported that Google renamed their default messaging app formally known as Messenger to Android Messages. It was unclear at the time why this was so, but speaking to The Verge, Amir Sarhangi, Head of RCS at Google, said the change was for the sake of indicating that the app is becoming as essential and necessary as the rest of Android. It also indicates RCS messaging is now supported.
Amir Sarhangi, Head of RCS at Google, tells The Verge that the app is getting renamed because Android Messages is becoming more like Android itself: an industry effort spearheaded by Google, but with other stakeholders involved (namely: the carriers). the new name is also a signal to users that the app fully supports RCS. Users will be able to download the Android Messages app directly from the Play Store — which gives the added benefit that the app can be updated directly rather than make people wait for a software update from their manufacturer.
In a nutshell, Google is gonna start treating Android Messages like Apple treats iMessage by adding new functions and updating it every chance they get. The only difference is Google will be able to update it whenever they please rather having to wait for a full-on system update to roll out. Manufacturers and devices who have vowed to begin using the new standard include LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, Nokia, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony and Wiko, along with Pixel and Android One devices.
Carriers who will begin supporting RCS messaging, a more feature-rich way to message folks over standard SMS, include Sprint, Rogers, Telenor, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Globe, and Vodafone. But if you look closely at both lists, major players such as Samsung and Apple in the phone department and AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile in the carrier department still won’t support the new technologies. Therefore, RCS and the new Android Messages app may come off limited for some as won’t be widely supported like Google wants.
If you happen to message someone who doesn’t have RCS support on an RCS-enabled device, your message will switch over to standard SMS, stripping away all the glory in having a device with next-gen capabilities. And while Google says if you add everything up, over one billion people will be able to use the new RCS standard, some of your closest friends on an iPhone or Galaxy won’t be able to join your party.
To get the ball rolling, Google is opening an “Early Access Program ” to allow businesses to start sending RCS messages to customers. For instance, you can be sent the QR code for the train or an interactive list of locations for the closest Walgreens. And thanks to RCS, they’re not just boring web links. They’re like little menus that pop up during your conversation. Now tell me Apple doesn’t want this for iPhone users. Seriously.
At the end of the day, all of this means manufacturers and carriers will finally start using more of Google’s solutions for messaging rather their own and start the transition to new technologies that are ready to go public. Of course, RCS messaging will take a little while to roll out to that billion people, but at least we know it’s coming.