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

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