Back in 2015, Google announced that it was getting behind the Rich Communication Services (RCS) standard for messaging and that it would work with carriers and device makers to implement RCS on Android. Fast-forward a few years and Google is now taking things into its own hands.
Google says that later this month, Android users in the U.K. and France will be able to opt in to RCS Chat services offered by Google. This will expand to more countries "throughout the year", but Google hasn't yet committed to any specific rollout schedule.
When Google flips its RCS Chat switch in your country, you'll be prompted to enable the feature in your Android Messages app. If you say "yes", you'll see "Chat" in the app. Google's RCS Chat feature will work with any other phone that supports the RCS Universal Profile, no matter if the person you're chatting with gets RCS from Google or their carrier.
RCS messaging is an upgrade over standard SMS text messaging in a number of ways. It offers typing indicators so you know when the person on the other end is typing a message to you, it supports higher-quality photos and videos, and it's got read receipts to let you know when the other person sees a message you sent. Many of these features are available in most modern messaging apps, but the goal with RCS is to bake them into a phone's regular messages app so that more people can experience them.
One thing that Google's RCS Chat doesn't offer is end-to-end encryption, which means that your RCS provider could potentially see what's in your messages. Google says that it will delete RCS messages from its servers as soon as they're delivered to your phone.
Google has been working to get RCS up and going on Android phones for a while now, but most carriers have been pretty slow to roll it out. For example, T-Mobile only offers RCS on a handful of phones, and Verizon only recently began offering its RCS on two Samsung devices. It's exciting to hear that Google is taking charge of the RCS rollout, but because we know so little about Google's plans, we're going to temper our excitement a bit. This is all exciting news for folks in the U.K. and France, but the rest of us will have to continue to wait to get RCS benefits on our Android phones.