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The RCS 'hack' showed us what Google could make happen for Android users if the carriers weren't in the way

RCS chat
RCS chat (Image credit: Android Central)

We all love the latest RCS hack for Android Messages, but it has begun its inevitable death spiral. When I saw you needed to use a beta version of the app and configure it to use a Google sandbox server I knew it would happen eventually. And I knew another thing: it showed every user who tried it how much better messaging on Android could be if carriers did not suck so hard.

That's the thing, too. Sprint and Google Fi users who only message other Sprint and Google Fi users know how great "real" RCS is. The same can be said for Verizon users who only talk to other Verizon users via the Verizon Messages + or whatever it's called app. The list goes on, and so does what every entry on it has in common — carrier interference.

At least carriers aren't still trying to sell us "text bundles" for $10 a month. For now.

I write many harsh words about U.S. carriers, mostly centered around the big four (soon to be the big three) but not everything they do is bad. Unfortunately, the way each is handling full universal profile RCS is an absolute shit sandwich. Even Sprint, who used to be the RCS good guy, is part of the Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative which mentions a dedicated app and special incentives that will make businesses want to text you. "$10 off tanning sessions if you get our Feel-Good peidcure!" is not a text that needs stickers or live links.

More: Carriers team up to find a way to profit from RCS with the CCMI

I'm the first to say that Google could stiffen its backbone and say screw the carriers then proceed to make RCS over Android Messages live for everyone. But I'm also the first to say Google can't do that because burning bridges is not how you run a successful company. Google has to smoothly get carriers to understand the benefits of RCS and how it means more money — that's what really matters and no matter how many tummy rubs Google could give carrier execs, they would never listen until they hear the word profit. That's how comapnies get in the position where revenue is measured in billions and it will never change.

But we know how things could be. We have used RCS done almost right and we liked what we saw. It wasn't WhatsApp or iMessage or Twitter DMs or anything of the sort. It was texting done in a way that made texting really good. Now the onus is on the carriers to either explain to us why this can't just happen or to give in and allow it to happen.

My bet is that they do neither and continue to discuss how difficult things are and why they need another year or more to do what Google just did. And when 2021 rolls around and they try to charge us $10 per month for it, remember this. I know I will.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Jerry Hildenbrand

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

47 Comments
  • If they offered this service with appropriate encryption, privacy controls and cross platform access then I might stay with android. Right now I use signal. It is great. I try to stay away from SMS. I message is a great product. Google could have had this with allo but they are so schizophrenic with development that they can't get their act together.
  • They had it with Hangouts and then some. Hangouts was so much better than Allo.
  • The carriers are fixing it with their own solution so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  • Did anybody proofread this article before it was posted?
  • I think with the latest beta, google realized the hack, wasn't too fond of it. So they made the restriction go away, and just let users enable. I'd delete the hacked beta, install the beta "legally", let it verify(it may take hours). That worked, haven't lost it since.
  • The hack isn't illegal...?
  • does it really take hours? i gave up and it would revert back to plain text. if it is just a matter of hours ill try again before bed and let it ride all night til i get up and hope for the best
  • All anybody wants is for carriers to be what they are: a dumb pipe. And quit lying about ****: it's not Talk and text + data. It's ALL data!
    Be what you are and be happy you get to rape us for that: DUMB PIPE!
  • I've been monitoring the feature and noticing when I'm on WiFi it is connected and when using data only it says connecting. Pixel XL
  • I also noticed this as well.
  • I have an unlocked 3XL and it's connected over TMobile data. Is yours unlocked?
  • Doing this hack through the beta only shows me that if Google wanted to it could implement RCS on it's app if it wanted to. Google should just do this and ship the carriers. Apple has been doing this for years without issue
  • As mentioned by @craigrn16, Google COULD GIVE EVERY USER RCS TODAY! The debate over should carriers get to do it or should it be Google is moot. Carriers view functional use of our devices as ways to turn a profit EVERY way possible. Google looks to profit TOO, but if they enable end to end encrypted RCS, I'm not that concerned. As for the carriers, that is how they ALL got caught selling our location aka PII to line their pockets. I'd rather Google simply enable RCS for ALL ANDROID users. As the current hack proves, it will fall back to SMS when communicating with someone without RCS capabilities.
  • Problem is it still requires carrier involvement like imessage does. If google does that they could easily be blacklist the sms server. Just like google is licencing the access for gpay(carrier branded still has that extra layer of security that soft card had) so if they piss off the cariers they could theory send us back to a time of when telenav was the main gps app
  • The ONLY involvement required is carriers maintain SMS servers/access. However that would really be irrelevant because if ALL Android users are pushed an updated Messages app with Google RCS, we ALL literally would have full interoperability at once. Further more if ALL Android users were moved to RCS tomorrow, the SMS issue would REALLY only apply to ppl with flip phones that labor out a txt on that flip T9 keypad. Flip phone users are NOT sending the majority of texts. And frankly, I don't care if flip phone hold outs lose the technical ability if carrier SMS servers were turned off.
  • The fix - make support for Google's RCS implementation part of the Play Store/Google Mobile Services agreement.
  • Totally agree. The funny thing, as this topic has been commented for many months on these sites, several ppl would "always" point out to me that broad RCS implementation simply was NOT possible on Google's end. (Then we saw Google flip a switch in Europe is literal whole countries has RCS. And in the recent "hack" to get it to work in US.) That literally sounded like nonsense. If Google baked RCS proper into Google Messages and obviously seeded the US with necessary servers to handle the traffic, RCS could roll out literally in 30 days or less (equipment buys and setup time). Sure, the carriers ***** about it takes away our control but screw them. They made ZERO effort to improve SMS/MMS other than essentially tossing those in free for most plans. There was a time each SMS/MMS sent cost and every SMS/MMS received cost (that's DOUBLE BILLING). Frankly, carriers can choke on a banana. Bake RCS proper into Google Messages and install necessary infrastructure to support the usage and be DONE WITH THE DEBATE.
  • It is a nice feature. My bet isn't on so much the fact the carriers want to capitalize on it which of course they will, but more on the fact that they need to make sure the heavier usage doesn't affect communications on a broader scale. As well as making sure it's emergency ready and able to be used for those services. While I love technology I also want to feel like I can rely on it for things that I may never use but knowing it works gives peace of mind. ☺️
  • That's not necessary since it would just do SMS/MMS.
  • Does RCS work on the Google Voice?
  • In a way it already is a form of it at least on google fi. But sadly gv numbers are useless for services like atom, über
  • Google Fi is not Google Voice. These are very distinct and incompatible services. And I am using GV number with Uber and variety of other things. No idea, what Atom is, though...
  • So true im sure what they paid the carriers for hce access wasnt cheap especially by then the carriers stopped ordering non-SE sim cards
  • I can't disagree with anything Jerry said. I did the hack and it was awesome! I'm hoping this was a Google "shot across the bow" telling carriers if you don't get your **** together, we'll do this.
  • Google could, assuming they spent the money to invest in the servers etc could provide RCS for every Android user tomorrow. full stop. The issue is does Google WANT to spend the money on all that equipment nationwide? With zero easy potential to monetize I would say the chances are slim to none realistically. As for carriers being shaken by Google's "shot across the bow" again, carriers realize Google is very likely reluctant to make that type of hardware investment to cover the load of full United States coverage of RCS servers.
  • Conscious Parallelism
    The practice of "conscious parallelism," according to Legal-Explanations.com, is not strictly collusion because it does not come as a result of any actual agreements between firms. Instead, it is a situation that produces the same results of collusion without any actual consultation taking place.
  • I am connected only when I am using WiFi data. When using AT&T mobile data only, Messages setting for chat is constantly connecting.
  • I left android because of the terrible messaging that is scattered everywhere direction. I also left because of the dismal smartwatch support as well. Google letting carriers dictate messaging will be a disaster because that might spread beyond the US to other regions as well and there will still be no baseline messaging standard across android.
  • SMS is fine, there is really no need to change it, i type some text and it away it goes to who ever I sent it to, who reads it and send me a reply, what more do we need? Oh yes, we need to put with tons of Emojis and useless gifs.
    RCS have not taken off in the UK, i think Vodafone supports it, but my network don't. suits me to be honest,
  • Three support it over Google's servers. It's officially been rolled out in the UK. Good luck with SMS when abroad, the charges are obscene.
  • I do not go abroad so it is not problem for me and if i do then I will get sim when I am there and use that instead.
  • I suspect that what bradavon was trying to tell you is that sending SMS across the border is prohibitively expensive, whether you are traveling or staying at home. Buying local SIM while traveling does not solve that.
  • But i don't know anyone who text me from another country, anyway in the EU it is not a problem as providers can not charge extra for roaming. what will happen once we leave the E.U is a different thing. Anyway this extra charge from one country to another is a sham, most of the networks in all countries are owned by the same companies. the people i do chat to in other countries i either use Skype or facebook messenger
    .
  • This is why I'm currently using an iPhone 11 Pro Max. I get encrypted messages and RCS-like texting by using iMessage without all the carrier ********.
  • Which is ok if you are sending to another Iphone user, but the majority of people do not have Iphones, in fact I know a couple of people who don't even have a smart phone so would never get anything like RCS, just plain text,.
  • It's a near majority in the US though.
  • i doubt it, there may be more Iphone users than say Samsung users, but Samsung is not the only mobile phone company to use Android. this is where you have to look, how many people use Iphone compared to Android based phones.
    iphones are awful things anyway.
  • That is why Google should override the carriers. Carriers are like unwanted middlemen these days, oftentimes more of a hindrance than help.
  • Hell no, it is bad enough that Google can change things on my phone as it is,
    i just realised that I do not even have Google messenger on my phone, i have something called messaging that came with the phone.
  • My RCS is still working, thankfully. I can "chat" with people on Sprint from my T-Mobile phone if they have RCS enabled normally.
  • i presume that if they don't have it enabled or you message a normal phone it will end up as plain SMS.
  • Personally I think Google should just screw the carriers and enable it anyway kinda like what Apple did with iMessage.
  • I like the idea of RCS Messaging but: 1. It's creating another OS specific Messaging service. We already have iMessage, is another one really a good idea? Cross platform is the way to go. 2. RCS offers nothing I don't already have because every person I know and meet has WhatsApp. WhatsApp has all the benefits of RCS and its cross platform. I've spent the past 4 months travelling through Argentina, Bolivia, Perú and haven't met a single person who doesn't use WhatsApp. 3. I would still need WhatsApp when roaming as RCS doesn't offer Calls. 4. I only use my sms app when I don't have Internet/need to save battery so turn off Internet like (4 day) festivals. RCS wouldn't work here either. In short RCS Messages only has a real word use in 2 of 200 countries (USA and Canada). I don't know for sure of course but every country I visit (Europe/Middle East/Asia/Africa/South America) has used WhatsApp heavily for at least the last 5 years. I even expect I could convince an iPhone user to install WhatsApp if I was visiting USA/Canada. They won't want to send me expensive SMS messages. Yes obviously SMS badly needs bringing into the modern age but sorry Google the world has moved on. For me RCS is a nice to have. Instead of fighting WhatsApp wouldn't RCS fans be better off embracing it?
  • I think "most" ppl that object to WhatsApp is due to the parent company. If it was independently owned, I suspect the adamant resistance against WhatsApp would be significantly less. Regarding, FB owns it. And for most ppl, FB has showed for the better part of a DECADE it has NO interest in data security or user privacy. And let's be honest "WHY" WhatsApp is popular in places OTHER than USA...ALL of the countries you listed are "developing" countries, with corresponding incomes and few of the population spends money on voice + SMS + data. Most simply buy a data ONLY plan and WhatsApp for sms, mms, and calls.
  • I have seen significant use of WhatsApp in Portugal and Italy. Whether those are "developing" countries is open to debate.
  • for me it has nothing to do with the parent company, after all I use Facebook. there are a couple of reason, one is that I really do not want to give them my mobile number and this would be for who ever owned it, the other thing Is I really do not want any more apps on my phone and more notifications, bad enough with facebook. the other thing is I really do not see the need for it, if people want to contact me then i have more than enough ways for them to do so, phone call, SMS are the main to, Facebook messenger if they must and good old email.
  • Gel most of the comments together and I get:
    1. Carriers suck and will not play nice.
    2. Google will not force the issue for fear of carrier pushback.
    3. WhatsApp being owned by FB is a problem for many ( including me ) which keeps it from Mass adoption in the US. ( Personally, I use Telegram which does everything RCS and WhatsApp do and is not owned by FB and is encrypted. Of course I have not convinced everyone I text to use it so I often have to fall back to sms...
    4. Carriers should just be a dumb pipe and allow 3rd party messaging apps to let the market sort out which messaging app wins.
    5. And this is my favorite: Data only. Voice-Text-Data is kind of unnecessary. Voice could also be a third party app by everyone using a voip provider. If voice was separated out to a third party, one could use their mobile number on any and all Android devices. You would never need to Port your number again when changing carriers which would then force them to just be a dumb pipe which is probably why they still force data, voice, and text packages. Which as Jerry says, why we can't have nice things. Sigh.