Google has officially announced that they're partnering up carriers to advance the nature of SMS, and essentially upgrade the functionality of text messages. More specifically, Google is going to be working with carriers across the globe to introduce RCS messaging through their Messenger application. If this sounds a little bit familiar, it's because the update to Messenger started rolling out recently and enhanced messaging (RCS) was one of the feature changes that was included in the update. If it doesn't sound familiar then it's likely that the update has not hit your device yet, or you simply don't use the Messenger app.
RCS or Rich Communication Services is the evolution of SMS messages, and brings forward loads of enhanced usability. With enhanced messaging features enabled, users will be able to see when people are typing back a response in a conversation thread, and you'll receive read receipts when someone has seen and read your messages. Google noted in their update to Messenger in the "what's new section" that the enhanced messaging features are only compatible with certain carriers, and for this particular push forward Google is starting by partnering with Sprint to bring RCS to subscribers who use the Messenger application.
For the Sprint partnership, subscribers of the carrier will need to be using Messenger if they want to take advantage of the RCS features and benefits. Messenger is free, so it won't set customers back any monetary cost if they switch from the stock SMS app they currently use on their phone. When it comes to new devices in the future, Google and Sprint's partnership will see all new Android devices comes with Messenger preinstalled as the default SMS app, which means that subscribers will have RCS messaging functionality right from the start when they activate or upgrade to a new smartphone. While a number of carriers already offer RCS messaging through their own stock SMS clients that come on phones, none of them work with each other, which is what makes Google's partnership with the carriers kind of a big deal, as it's set to be a standard that will work across all carriers. This does mean that subscribers will have to use Messenger if they want the RCS messaging to work no matter who they're talking to, but if Google reaches deals to preload Messenger on future phones with other carriers as well, then it shouldn't be an issue. While Google notes that all phones from Sprint next year will have RCS enabled, right now they have stated that some LG and Nexus phones on Sprint's network will receive the RCS experience through a Messenger update. Naturally, Messenger can also be installed on other Android devices that don't already have it and Sprint subscribers can take advantage of RCS on the network that way.