Google pushes RCS forward by rebranding Messenger to Android Messages

Google Messenger has picked up an update that renames the app to Android Messages. The core functionality is still the same, and barring the name change, the update doesn't bring any new features to the messaging app. However, the app will now be installed on default on handsets from over 20 phone makers as Google pushes ahead with RCS.

The changelog notes bug and stability improvements, and simpler sign-up for enhanced features on supported carriers. The last bit has to do with RCS (Rich Communications Services), which is what this name change is all about.

RCS is a communication standard that is a natural evolution from SMS and MMS, offering better multimedia support, read receipts, group chat, and other features to bring texting in line with Hangouts and Facebook Messenger. RCS is a universal standard, and carriers that have agreed to use the "Universal Profile" — Deutsche Telekom, Globe, Rogers, Orange, Sprint, Telenor, and Vodafone — will fully support rich text messages on their networks, bringing the total number of subscribers that are covered by the standard to over 1 billion.

What is RCS and why does it matter?

With RCS gaining adoption by several carriers around the world, Google is now pushing for Android Messages as the default messaging app for the platform:

Android Messages supports RCS, SMS and MMS so people can message all their friends regardless of their network or device type. We'll continue to update and improve Android Messages to bring new features enabled through RCS, such as the ability to search and share all types of content and easily access the messages that are most important to you.

Google will be showing off RCS messaging later this week at Mobile World Congress, and has provided use cases where businesses can provide rich interactions to their customers by leveraging the communications standard.

Google RCS messaging

The company has also announced that over 20 manufacturers have agreed to use Android Messages as the default SMS app on their phones, in addition to its own Pixel and Android One handsets:

  • LG
  • Motorola
  • Sony
  • HTC
  • Micromax
  • Nokia
  • ZTE
  • Archos
  • LeEco
  • BQ
  • Cherry Mobile
  • Condor
  • Fly
  • General Mobile
  • Lanix
  • Lava
  • Kyocera
  • MyPhone
  • QMobile
  • Symphony
  • Wiko

The list doesn't include Samsung, but Google is hoping that the momentum with RCS will convince other carriers and manufacturers to adopt the standard.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.