Google Enables Android RCS Messaging in the U.S.

Posted on November 15, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Mobile with 13 Comments

Google is done waiting for U.S. carriers to roll out Rich Communication Service (RCS) text messaging in its Android Messaging app.

RCS is an open messaging standard designed to put non-iPhone handsets on equal footing with Apple’s offering. It lets you chat over Wi-Fi or mobile data, send and receive higher-resolution photos and videos than is possible with MMS, and see whether recipients received your sent messages. It also enables more functionality for group chats.

The RCS issue came to a head in the wake of the launch of the Pixel 4, which is the first Google handset to be offered by all four major U.S. carriers. But none of the carriers enabled RCS messaging on their networks, preferring instead for customers to use their own messaging services.

So Google is now doing what it does elsewhere in the world: It is simply bypassing the carriers and offering RCS messaging via its own servers.

“If you already have Messages, you’ll be prompted to enable chat features in the coming weeks,” Google’s Sanaz Ahari says. “We expect this service to be broadly available in the U.S. by the end of year.”

To enable this functionality, you do have to use Google’s Messages app, which ships with most Android versions. (Customers of Samsung and other devices can simply download it for free from the Google Play Store.)

Hey, Google tried to do the right thing. And then the carriers did what the carriers always do: Screw over their partners.

“Google is partnering with carriers and OEMs to offer a native messaging client, Messages, for RCS, SMS and MMS messaging,” Google explained previously in a more innocent day. “Messages supports the GSMA’s Universal Profile for interoperability across operator networks and devices.”

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Comments (14)

14 responses to “Google Enables Android RCS Messaging in the U.S.”

  1. jcalamita

    just remember.... it will be not be encrypted (unlike iMessage...)

  2. bart

    I wonder if the 'hack' to get RCS on handsets will continue to work on my Dutch phone. Fingers crossed

  3. Jeffsters

    Read that unlike Apple's Messages, Google's implementation won't be peer to peer encrypted. I guess that makes sense though as how else will Google be able to mine all that juicy user message data that today is out of its reach in SMS.

  4. Rob_Wade

    I guess since I've always been able to send/receive pictures and group text with people I don't feel like I've ever been missing anything. On Windows phones or anything else. So, what's the big deal here?

  5. nobody9

    The lack of end-to-end encryption is what I perceive to be Google's tentative olive branch to the carriers, who are the actual ones who hate the idea of user privacy. That was made clear in the carriers' CCMI announcement. Let's just hope that this olive branch to the carrier scum eventually includes end-to-end encryption.

  6. Stokkolm

    In reply to SvenJ:

    You should read the article:

    So Google is now doing what it does elsewhere in the world: It is simply bypassing the carriers and offering RCS messaging via its own servers.

  7. ivarh

    With google´s complete lack of stayer capability for produkts that are not hit´s from day 1 I seriously doubt that RCS will ever become a thing. Personally google have dropped so many of the google products i was using that I am done with them. I will not put effort into learning and working any of their new products into my workflows. Fool me once and so on.

    There are many working 3rd party solutions out there that are cross platform that people can use instead of google´s 10th attempt at a messaging solution (according to arstechnica).

  8. wright_is

    I thought RCS isn't end-to-end encrypted, so it isn't comparable with iMessage, or Threema, Signal, Telegram or even WhatsApp.

    Everybody I know uses Signal, Telegram or WhatsApp - although the later is not GDPR compliant, so we don't use it.

    To be honest, I don't know anyone who uses iMessage, probably because all their friends use one of the cross-platform chat apps, because Apple has such low penetration here (around 16-18% last time I looked). The only SMS I get these days are from online services that don't take security very seriously.

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