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Home / Tips and Tricks / Don't be jealous of iMessage. The fancy text message update from Google is being rolled out

Don't be jealous of iMessage. The fancy text message update from Google is being rolled out


Apple's iMessage is the glue that users hold on to the iPhone.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

If you are an Android user and have become tired of boring text messages, help is on its way. Google has recently announced a slow rollout of RCS Messaging for US users who have joined users in the UK, France, and Mexico who gained access earlier this year. Google expects the feature to be available to all US users by the end of the year. The new messaging capabilities are built into Google's own Messaging app, just like the iMessage features are built into Apple's Messaging app, so if you don't use the Google Messaging app, you want to get started.

Let's face it, Android phones do a lot of good things, but when it comes to texting, the iPhone ($ 699 at Amazon) has a Google beat. Apple & # 39; s iMessage supports group messages and read acknowledgments and has that addictive blue bubble that automatically sms other iPhone users via WiFi, not just your mobile data connection.

The fact that Android phone manufacturers use different messaging apps as standard, makes texting & # 39; and not as distinctive as iMessage for iPhone users. Google wants to change all of that and is working to make text messages more powerful, more consistent on Android phones and more fun to use. And it does it with a message protocol called RCS.

Here's a look at what RCS is and does, what it will give you and when you can start using it on your Android phone.

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What does RCS mean?

RCS is a type of message protocol that stands for Rich Communication Services. If it is available everywhere, it replaces SMS, the standard for text messages used since the 1990s.

Text messages have evolved somewhat over the years and have exceeded the original 160-character limit and have added MMS (multimedia messages) for sending photos & videos & # 39; s. However, SMS is starting to show its age and limitations. With RCS, texting & # 39; and on Android could be just as flexible and powerful as texting platforms such as WhatsApp and WeChat .

Google does not refer to RCS Messaging with its name in the Messages app. Instead, Google refers to it as Chat. Just know that the two terms are interchangeable.

Group messages get a whole lot better with RCS messages.


How will RCS improve the SMS & # 39;

The biggest change is that with RCS messages you can share photos & # 39; s, video & # 39; s, GIF & # 39; s and high-resolution texts via Wi-Fi and via your phone's data connection. You can see if contacts type you and when they have received and read a message. Group discussions will also see improvements.

It is actually iMessage, but for Android.

Google has dedicated an entire website to explaining the benefits of RCS messages if you want more details.

What other functions does RCS have?

As RCS messages become more prominent, you can chat with companies to place and follow orders, make payments, and get help with a product. Business chat is something that Apple & # 39; s iMessage platform currently has, but a similar feature for Android users is a welcome addition.

Are RCS calls end-to-end coded, such as iMessage? No. 19. RCS messages are routed on their way to the recipient via Google's servers and are deleted as soon as they are sent, but the protocol currently has no end-to-end encryption. If you want a more secure messaging protocol, you must use a different messaging service, such as Apple's iMessage, WhatsApp, or Signal .

How RCS messages work on Android phones

To use RCS messages, you must use the Messages app from Google as your default text messaging app. If you live in one of the countries where Google has rolled out the service (more on this later), you will receive a prompt in the app at some point asking if you want to enable chat features. Follow the instructions in the app to enable chat, including entering your phone number when prompted.

After chat is enabled, you can continue to use the Messages app as you normally do, but when you talk to someone who also has the feature turned on, you get the extra functions of RCS messages. You can see when someone who sends you a message has enabled chat, because & # 39; Chat message & # 39; is displayed instead of & # 39; Text message & # 39 ;.

Some phone manufacturers, such as Samsung, have integrated Google's RCS platform into their own standard messaging apps, and companies like LG could do the same over time. But at this time it's best to use the Google Messages app. Doing this gives you the added benefit of being able to send text messages from your computer .

Read our article about Chat functions in the Messages app for more information.

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If your provider supports RCS, the Google Messaging app has settings for the chat function.

Jason Cipriani / CNET

Does it matter which carrier I use?

No more. Prior to the recent Google announcement, the availability of RCS messages depended on who made your Android phone and who your wireless provider was. Now that Google completely bypasses the providers, you only have to worry about using the Google Messages app.

However, it was a bumpy road to reach this point. We had seen a number of announcements and partnerships from Google, Android device manufacturers and even providers that RCS will finally roll out. But the truth is that only a small number of phones on an even smaller list of providers have ultimately supported this.

Verizon added RCS support for the Pixel 3 ($ 459 with Amazon) and Pixel 3 XL ($ 1,315 with Walmart) and was intended to support the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus support, but that's where the fun ended. In 2018, Google and Samsung announced a partnership to bring RCS messages to more Android devices, but at that time, without carrier support, it didn't mean much.

Companies like Verizon contributed to the confusion, whose Message + SMS app supports RCS, but does not use Google & # 39; s Universal Profile. So if you are a Verizon customer who uses Message +, you can use the RCS spinoff as long as you are chatting with another Verizon user who also uses Message +.

Some providers supported the RCS Universal Profile from Google and made RCS available to users, such as Sprint and Google Fi .

Outside the US, enabled Google RCS for the UK and France in July 2019.

It is easy to see why Google has decided to opt out of carrier support and RCS messages themselves to release.

When will I receive RCS messages on my Android phone?

Good question. Google said that only 1% of US users would gain immediate access to RCS, but the company expects the majority of US users to have access "by the end of the year".

We follow the story and will update this FAQ as the development occurs. Until then, the only thing we can do is wait.

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The Messaging app from Samsung also supports RCS. Angela Lang / CNET

What about RCS on my iPhone?

Apple has stopped or plans to support RCS on the iPhone. But it is much more likely that Apple will continue to use its own iMessage platform to give iPhone users the feeling that they are part of a rare community.

How to use RCS now, with a pawl

Don't want to wait? Reddit users have found a way to enable RCS on any Android phone, regardless of whether the rollout has reached your device. The process is somewhat technical, but the instructions are simple. Keep in mind that you accept some risk by trying it out, and the program can stop working at any time. That is the nature of the beast.

If you are tired of standard text messages, check out these message apps that offer their own iMessage-like functions. On the other hand, you could always jump to iOS – switching to an iPhone is not as difficult as you might think .

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Hopefully sooner than later we will see massive approval of RCS messages.

Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Originally published earlier this month. Updated with new information.

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