It’s been two years since Google promised RCS, a replacement for SMS, would mark the future of messaging on Android. Since then, carriers have dragged their feet in adopting the technology, leading to Google taking control of the project and rolling it out themselves. Now, 33 months after that initial promise, the company says all Android users where Google services are offered can use RCS.
Today, we’ve completed our global rollout of [RCS] chat features to make this modern messaging experience universal and interconnected for everyone on Android. Now anyone using Messages around the world has access to modern chat features either from their carrier or directly from Google.
In order to use RCS, you have to use Google’s Android Messages app. From there, you should be prompted to enable “Chat features” either right on the main screen or in the settings panel.
If you’re unfamiliar, RCS gives you access to features you’d find in third-party messaging apps or even iMessage. You get read receipts, high-quality photo and video sharing, typing indicators, and improved group chats. It’s Google’s best effort ever to provide an alternative to Apple’s iMessage on Android. The company’s put out multiple chat apps in the past but to no avail. However, by completely replacing standard SMS with a much more modern alternative, the search giant could have a lot more luck.
As of now, not all of the headlining features of RCS are live. That’s because Google has yet to roll out end-to-end encryption. Beginning today, beta users of Android Messages can use E2E encryption so long as the person they message also has the beta and they both have Chat features over data and Wi-Fi enabled. So long as those requirements are reached, you’ll get a “Chatting with (contact name)” banner at the top of your thread with a lock icon.
It isn’t clear when E2E encryption will roll out to all users, but I’ll let you know when the time comes. In the mean time, it’s a good idea to download Android Messages and make the switch to RCS. Trust me, it’s worth it.
As for iPhone users, it’s not clear if Apple will ever cave and bring RCS support to its devices. I tend to doubt it because, y’know, iMessage is a thing, but I could be wrong. We’ll just have to wait and see.