Google is rolling out Rich Communication Services (RCS), the successor to SMS that will bring texting up to par with features available in chat apps like Apple iMessage and WhatsApp.
That means texting should get a whole lot better for users of the Android Messages app, which will now use RCS as the main chat protocol.
People using Messages, which Android users can install from Play Store, will be prompted to enable chat features in the coming weeks. Google predicts the RCS version of Messages will be broadly available in the US by the end of the year.
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The switch to RCS should help Android catch up with Apple’s iOS on the messaging front by allowing users to see read-receipts and typing indicators, showing recipients have read a message and are keying in a reply.
As outlined by ZDNet sister site CNET, Android users will be able to chat over Wi-Fi or mobile data, send hi-res videos and photos, create group chats, add and remove people from groups, and see when people have read a group message.
However, out of step with iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal, RCS messages are not end-to-end encrypted. That’s a significant feature gap in a world that, thanks to Edward Snowden, knows the extent of government surveillance.
RCS has been a long and slow road for Google, which acquired Jibe Mobile in 2015 to kickstart RCS with the hope that carriers around the world would hop on board its implementation for Android.
However, carriers have been reluctant to hand control over messaging to Google, which earlier this year decided to launch RCS in the UK and France despite a lack of support from carriers there.
Last month AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Verizon announced their intent to replace SMS with RCS in 2020 but the technology will be built on an RCS implementation for Android under the Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), which does not involve Google. Per the Verge, CCMI partners will be launching their own RCS messaging app.
“We’re also committed to working with our partners, including carriers and device makers, to provide a consistent and interoperable experience for everyone on Android,” Sanaz Ahari, a Google product management director, said.