Google and a handful of U.S. carriers are set to redefine the SMS standard. The search company announced a year ago that Android Messages would be preloaded by 20 or more OEMs as the official Rich Communication Services client.
Fast forward to now, and Google is on the final stages of its partnerships with smartphone manufacturers. The RCS platform now also has a name: Chat.
Google is Changing the Messaging Game With Chat
As The Verge reports, Google is trying to change the way people text on a global scale. Google has spent nearly a decade attempting to fix a rotating cast of messaging apps. By contrast, Apple has had much success with iMessage, which is simple and built-in to every iOS device. Android users have been largely left to search for third-party messaging apps if they don’t like Android Messages or Allo, Google’s smart chat platform.
But instead of coming up with a better app, Google is going deeper. Google has been subtly partnering with every major U.S. carriers on the planet and convincing them to adopt RCS, a technology that might one day replace SMS. It’s a huge effort, so it’s no surprise the company is pausing its work on other departments. It’s transferring the entire Allo team and putting all its resources into Android Messages.
It’s Not An iMessage Clone
Google, however, isn’t planning on building an iMessage clone. Chat isn’t a texting app. Consider it as a bunch of new features within an app already installed on most Android phones. Chat is simply the user-friendly nickname for RCS, and it will be the default delivery method inside Android Messages, Android’s default texting app. Chat will ultimately depend on carrier support, so it’ll be up to them if this standard is adopted widely or abandoned.
RCS messaging is pretty basic. Just open up Android Messages, then send a text message. The carrier will send that message to the recipient’s carrier. If they’re a Chat user, the message with be forwarded via RCS. If not, it will be sent as a typical SMS.
So, what’s so good about RCS? Well, for starters, it’s much more dynamic than SMS as it supports read receipts, typing indicators, group texts, and full-resolution images and video. It’s basically like the modern messaging platform people know and use on social media, transported to the mobile messaging environment.
One downside to RCS messaging is that texts aren’t end-to-end encrypted like on iMessage or Signal, which could be a deal-breaker for those who value privacy and security.
Even still, support for Chat is steadily growing. There are currently 55 different carriers around the world that have agreed to use the standard, on top of 11 OEMs. For now, only Google and Microsoft are promising to adopt the standard, while Apple is holding out.