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Google starts pushing out RCS Chat to all Android phones in the U.S.

Google starts pushing out RCS Chat to all Android phones in the U.S.
Remember that little trick we showed you late last month that allowed you to enable Rich Communication Service (RCS) on any Android phone using the Android Messages app? Today Google made this little trick unnecessary by starting to roll out RCS Chat to all Android phones using the Messages app as the default messaging platform. Those who used the trick will automatically be enabled for the official RCS Chat service. Many Android phones have Messages as the default messaging app right out of the box, but Samsung phones don't. If you need to change the default messaging app on your Android phone, first download Messages by clicking on this link. Then go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Advanced > Default apps >SMS app and select Messages.

RCS is the next generation of messaging and uses a carrier's data connection instead of its cellular connection. This allows users to write messages with up to 8,000 characters instead of the 160 now allowed with SMS/Text. Users will also be able to share larger, higher-quality images and videos, receive a receipt when a message they sent has been read, engage in chats with up to 100 participants at one time, and more. Keep in mind that Google's RCS Chat does not offer end-to-end encryption but the company said in the past that it is working on this feature.

During the summer, Google pulled an end-around wireless carriers in the U.K. and France by rolling out RCS Chat itself directly to Android users and there was hope that this would also be done in the states. And yes, while Google is doing that today, last month the four major U.S. carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint) agreed to create the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI) that is tasked with releasing an RCS app to Android users next year. To that end, the CCMI agreed to use technology from messaging platform developer Synchronoss Technologies for its own RCS service. The carriers see the possibility of making some money here as consumers will be able to place orders from their favorite brands without leaving CCMI's RCS app.

Google's RCS Chat will work with the CCMI app expected next year

Google's RCS rollout is being done with small incremental updates. Those with Android Messages should soon receive a prompt allowing them to "enable chat features." As we already noted, those who successfully followed the trick to enable RCS on Messages will be included. Android users can see if RCS Chat is enabled on their handset by opening Messages, tapping the three-dot overflow message in the upper right corner, and tapping on Settings > Chat features. Those with RCS Chat enabled will see that their status is "Connected." The rollout will be completed by the end of the year.

By performing this end around for the second time, Google is bypassing the U.S. carriers and is offering RCS itself. While Verizon did hook up the Pixel 3 with RCS and Google's own Fi MVNO has done so for the Pixel 4, the wireless operators in the states had essentially turned the other cheek until they made the CCMI announcement. What will happen next year is not yet known. According to a report in The Verge, Google was not surprised by the initial announcement about the formation of the CCMI (even though the release didn't mention Google at all) and says that it has been in touch with the group. Google has said that its RCS Chat will work with the CCMI app when released in 2020.

For users to be able to take advantage of RCS, both sides in a chat must be using it. It is not supported by iOS and Apple has not commented on whether such support will ever be forthcoming.

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