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Google will now directly offer RCS features instead of waiting on carriers

Android Messages with a dark theme
Android Messages with a dark theme (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google will soon offer RCS features directly to Android phones.
  • The integration is coming first to the UK and France later this month.
  • This means Google no longer has to wait on carriers to support the messaging standard.

Back in April 2018, Google unveiled its new messaging plans using RCS technology. Through its Messages app and baked under a platform called "Chat", Google would enable Android users to have a rich messaging experience right out of the box without having to download a third-party app — essentially Google's version of iMessage.

The problem, however, is that getting OEMs and carriers to support RCS hasn't been easy. While you can use RCS Chat on some carriers like Google Fi, other companies like AT&T don't support it at all. However, Google's now preparing to take matters into its own hands and directly enable RCS on Android phones regardless of what carrier they're on.

Per a report from The Verge, Google will roll out a feature later this month in the United Kingdom and France that will allow people to turn on RCS functionality on their device in the blink of an eye.

Google's yet to say what countries will follow these initial two and how quickly it'll expand this initiative, but at the very least, real steps are being taken to make sure everyone has the best messaging experience possible.

Per the report:

The process will be opt-in. When users open up the Android Messages app, they'll see a prompt offering to upgrade to RCS Chat. This will also apply to new phones. RCS Chat will be in the default app and offered to every Android user, but for now the plan is not to make it the default. Apple automatically opts users in to iMessage, but Google is going to require an active choice.

You'll still need a phone that supports the RCS Univeral Profile in order for this to work, but this is still a massive step forward compared to where we were yesterday.

On the topic of security, this is something Google says it's working on. Right now, RCS Chat is not end-to-end encrypted — meaning Google could technically see your messages' contents. However, the product management director for Google Messages, Sanaz Ahari, said this in a statement:

We fundamentally believe that communication, especially messaging, is highly personal and users have a right to privacy for their communications. And we're fully committed to finding a solution for our users.

Furthermore, Google says that it'll delete any messages from its servers as soon as they arrive on your phone. That's reassuring to hear, but it's not as secure as something like WhatsApp or Signal that has proper end-to-end encryption baked in by default.

While not as elegant of a solution compared side-by-side with iMessage, this is a big leap forward for RCS Chat. The fact that folks will actually be able to use the features without having to worry about if their carrier supports it is really exciting. Now, we'll just have to see how long it takes for Google to roll out that switch around the globe.

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Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

26 Comments
  • Nice can't wait. Still won't be sending them dick pics to my Mrs till they encrypt RCS 🤣
  • Why don't they support this in Google Voice yet? That's completely under their control.
  • If your friends all have a US phone number, then yeah. Otherwise, GV is not the solution.
  • I wonder if it will work with the Samsung Messages app?
  • what I was wondering while I liked the Google Messages I like the Samsung messaging app more
  • The article says "You'll still need a phone that supports the RCS Univeral Profile in order for this to work...". How would you know which phone does? I thought only the carriers sent this universal profile update out. If you have an Android One phone, One Plus, stock Pie.... wouldn't all of them support RCS Universal Profile?
  • About f'ing time.
  • So it is just another messaging app...
    What does that mean RCS support without carriers.. that sounds to me that it's just a Google server does there relay just like WhatsApp, telegram or Facebook chat
  • But isn't this what everyone has wanted naked in to messenger in the first place? So this is the first time we are actually getting the feature instead of a messaging app.
  • What's the difference? Both are apps.. one is preinstalled..yeahhh. Google doesn't really have to release this over here in the Netherlands.. won't do a thing. Google should just have improved Google talk way way back now it is top late (at least here and I think most part of Europe and I guess also Asia)
  • I applaud them but I wish Google would just make Android Messages the default app. I know there are reasons why they can't that deal with carriers and OEMs but a boy can still wish.
  • This is the only way to give an "iMessage for Android" and why it'll never really happen
  • It already is the default app on new devices (for the most part) as almost every OEM signed an agreement to ship Messages on their devices a couple years ago. Samsung were the main abstainer back then, but subsequently decided to make their messaging app compatible with Google's Messages app to allow interoperability with RCS and the Universal Profile.
  • still won't fix the problems with android texting.
  • What problems are you referring to?
  • I'm interested in hearing these problems too
  • Plenty of problems: (before you call me a fan boy note my two phones are an s10 plus and a pixel 3) Group chats on sms is a disaster Mms file size and quality is garbage SMS is not secure or end to end encrypted like iMessage is Messages on Android is not a ubiquitous experience across all devices like it is with iMessage It's factually proven to be less reliable, fast, extensible, and simple as iMessage Bottom line is that Android's messaging situation is objectively way behind what Apple offers.
  • I agree with the mms quality my wife has resulted to Facebook Messenger, and sometimes it does delay in sending on default.
  • Rcs can fix all of them, save for end to end encryption. Though they said that's a possibility down the line
  • Mms? SMS? Do people actually use that anymore? That was good in the 90's. Don't think I've sent or received SMS or mMS since 19 years ago.
  • Long overdue, so good on Google! The carriers have had over a year, yet, as usual, have done nothing to implement RCS. It'll be up to phone manufacturers and Google to get this working.
  • I sure have my issues with Google as a company sometimes...but on this I do agree with them. I can't wait to be able to have a messaging platform directly integrated into my device independent of my carrier. The less dependent I am on my carrier the better. I honestly wish that Google had its own dedicated communications grid...so I could just go ahead and get my device without having the need for a carrier branded SIM card...
  • About time! Hopefully the US will be quick to see the feature.
  • Too little too late. It won't make a difference to the way people message nowadays. It'll never work to it's full potential cross platform (ie Android RCS to iMessage as an instant message) so most people will still stick to WhatsApp or the even the less popular apps like Telegram and FB Messenger. Only really the US still use SMS these days when the rest of the world has advanced so this will be great news over there at least Good on Google for taking the bull by the horns though and doing it themselves. Still begs the question why they never did this to begin with?
  • This is what the 2 messaging apps they released over the last few years were supposed to do! Or even Google voice. I'm not holding my breath. This would be amazing but it's still not a good solution since people will have to have the app, it's opt in, and I doubt they will release a Apple version. I don't know why they dumped Allo
  • Really don't care carrier based messaging. What Google should do, is to add feature rich chatting functions in their Duo (or Trio later?) I think that Duo is better than most other video call apps. But the messaging function is sorely missed. I would have to use a different app to chat with my friends. Facebook Messenger is a more complete communication implementation. But its video call quality is not that great, when bandwidth is constrained.