RCS Messaging Lands on Android for All Users in the US

Posted on December 16, 2019 by Mehedi Hassan in Google, Mobile, Android with 14 Comments

It’s time. Android finally has a decent competitor for iMessage: RCS. As you may remember, Google has been working on introducing RCS messaging in Android for a long time now.

The company first introduced the idea back in 2017 with the new Android Messages app, which it has been updating over the last year or so. RCS messaging, or Rich Communication Service messaging, enables modern chat features that put non-iPhone devices on equal footing with Apple’s iMessage.

Google announced back in November of this year that the company will finish rolling out the new chat features as part of RCS by the end of this year, and RCS messaging is now available for all users in the United States a little early:

RCS messaging isn’t only limited to users in the United States, by the way — users in France, Mexico, and the UK already have the new chat features, with more countries expected to support it soon.

RCS messaging is definitely a very good step forward for Android, considering all the limitations of SMS/MMS messaging. RCS messaging introduces real-time typing indicators, read receipts, ability to share files and high-resolution photos, as well as the ability to send messages over mobile data and Wi-Fi. It’s essentially an open version of iMessage.

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “RCS Messaging Lands on Android for All Users in the US”

  1. wright_is

    I still don't get all the hype about RCS. It isn't as secure as Signal, Threema or even Telegram and WhatsApp and all of those work on both platforms...

    • beckoningeagle

      In reply to wright_is:

      I agree. If only a standard could be developed that brought WhatsApp or Signal functionality with carrier support was a possibility (you have to read that in a prayer type of tone).

      I don't see that happening, though, with Apple and Goole both having competing ecosystems.

    • Chris_Kez

      In reply to wright_is:

      I think you may have a blind spot on this topic, perhaps because of your own usage preferences or the fact that you live in Germany and likely travel for work/recreation primarily in the EU. To be clear about my own biases, I live in the US, use iMessage and wish I could get the few remaining Android users in my family to convert to iOS. I don't care about RCS. That said, I think this will significantly and instantly improve the messaging experience for 100 million people in the US, where SMS/MMS is the primary means of communication. This has nothing to do with security, nor is that a top concern for SMS/MMS users. I'm not really aware of much "hype" for RCS, but I think many people want something that offers the performance and features of iMessage (with the caveat again that this lacks encryption) as a core part of the Android experience.

      • wright_is

        In reply to Chris_Kez:

        Possibly. We all have unlimited SMS with our contacts, pay as you go doesn't, but I would think a majority do, but I get about 3 SMS a year and send about the same.

        Everybody here uses Signal, Telegram or WhatsApp. As Apple has so little market share, every iPhone user I know also uses one of those services so that they don't miss out.

      • darkgrayknight

        In reply to Chris_Kez:

        Really we need an open SMS/Text/IM client that works across all platforms. What's App is great, as one's phone number is the username and it's encrypted messaging. However, being owned by Facebook leaves it feeling less than really open. RCS isn't going to be helpful unless it works for everyone.

      • bassoprofundo

        In reply to Chris_Kez:

        How will it really help in the US, though? Until/unless Apple supports it, you're still missing 48% of mobile users. Not only that, but most folks use their default messaging client, so carve off the 20-25% on Samsung devices who aren't using an app that supports the universal profile. (They might have RCS, but nothing supported across carriers). Without accounting for any other considerations, you're already at 30%-ish.

        In actuality, it's more likely going to be only Pixel users and technical users who strong-arm their Android-wielding relatives into changing messaging clients that benefit. Even saying "benefit" is dubious since you're getting less features than are already offered by competing platforms, not the least of which is end-to-end encryption.

        The majority of joe-users I know are just going to wonder why some of their messages say "read" but others don't. :)

    • ommoran

      In reply to wright_is:

      Canada, as well, is reliant on SMS/MMS, and with the prevalence of iOS, iMessage. I don't just want to see a competing platform, I want to see something cross-platform. I would love to have the ability to reply to a message via my PC, without having to pick up my phone. While that is coming to Android users via YourPhone (and I hope Microsoft picks up RCS in YourPhone as well), I personally would love to break out of the iMessage ecosystem.

      Unfortunately, my company has standardized on iOS - it's great in that I don't have to buy a phone, but being trapped is frustrating.

  2. Pierre Masse

    Next in Canada, please, Google.

  3. rosyna

    There’s also zero encryption in RCS while iMessage is end-to-end encrypted.

    • Andi

      In reply to rosyna:

      Nope, imessage is end to end encrypted only from iphone to iphone. When you text from within imessage towards a non-iphone user there is no encryption as imessage falls back to SMS. This time imessage will fall back to RCS, still not encrypted, but at least it would alleviate some of the limitations of SMS.

      • rosyna

        In reply to Andi:

        Slight clarification, Messages falls back to SMS if iMessage isn’t available for a contact. The iMessage service never gets the unencrypted text, so it can’t fall back to SMS

    • Winner

      In reply to rosyna:

      iMessage is end-to-end encrypted, but those messages pass through Apple's servers, and Apple manages the encryption keys. Apple can decrypt iMessages if needed or requested by authorities.

      But yes, nobody else would be able to intercept and read those messages.

  4. TroyTruax

    It's easy for those who get new phones regularly and try new apps all the time to forget the vast number of people that will go to their graves using whatever chat came with their phone. They are not out there looking for an alternative and certainly don't want anything to do with trying to convince all their friends to switch to the same alternative. I say improving the default chat client is a big step forward.