A tweet sent late last week by Google's Communications Suite Lead Sanaz Ahari (via Android Central) indicates that the company's U.S. rollout of Rich Communication Service (RCS) was completed last Monday. Google started this task back in November. That means all Android users in the states should be able to take advantage of the enhanced messaging features offered with RCS. The latter works with a carrier's data network instead of its cellular network which means that users will be able to send and receive messages over Wi-Fi.
With RCS, the number of characters allowed in a single message soars to 8,000 from 160 and there are other benefits as well. Users will receive a read receipt when a message they sent has been read, and they will be able to see when someone is the middle of typing a reply. In addition, larger-sized image and video files can be shared, and group chats with up to 100 participants can take place.
Earlier this year, Google started rolling out what it calls RCS Chat in the U.K. and France after getting frustrated with how slowly the carriers in those countries were disseminating RCS. In the U.S., the four major carriers joined together to create the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI) which will offer a new RCS based messaging app for Android phones next year. The wireless providers see an opportunity to monetize RCS by offering users the opportunity to make purchases using the platform, pay bills, contact companies, order a rideshare and more. Last month, it was announced that Synchronoss Technologies will work with the CCMI group. As an example of what the carriers might have in mind, Synchronoss showed how a group of friends could engage in an RCS chat, decide to attend a concert, purchase the tickets and discuss the upcoming event all without leaving the messaging app.
RCS is a big step forward for Android Messaging, but there is no end-to-end encryption
Settings > Chat features to see your status. If you see the word "Connected" in green, you are indeed set up for RCS Chat. Remember though, you need to have Android Messages as your default messaging app. If you don't have the app, you can install it from the Google Play Store.Interestingly, the day after the CCMI announcement, a hack was revealed that allowed Android users to install Google's RCS Chat on their phones. But now that Google has sent out the official update, there is no reason to use it. And even if you did take advantage of the hack, you will be officially welcomed by Google to RCS Chat. You might need to update your Android Messages app and the Carrier Services app just to be sure. And keep in mind that for RCS to work, both parties in a chat must be using it. You can see if RCS Chat is enabled on your phone by going to the Android Messages app and tapping on the three-dot overflow menu in the upper right corner. Click on
While RCS might help Android users experience a new generation of Android messaging, it does not offer the end-to-end encryption feature found on Apple's Messages app and third-party apps like WhatsApp. CCMI partner Synchronoss Technologies says that SMS/Text was long due for an upgrade. Company president and CEO Glenn Lurie says, "the cross-carrier messaging initiative has the potential to transition the wireless ecosystem to a new, innovative messaging service that will power new experiences – allowing U.S. wireless customers to manage their digital life and enabling efficient and convenient interactions with their favorite brands from a single application."
It will be interesting to see what role Google plays in the CCMI. It still is not clear at this point whether the Android Messages app will work with the CCMI's app, or co-exist with it. It also isn't known whether Google plans on taking any part in whatever new capabilities the CCMI plans for RCS.
If you're an Android user outside of the U.S. (and the U.K. and France), Google's Ahari tweeted to "stay tuned."