Google essentially sees RCS (Rich Communication Services) messaging as an Android equivalent to iMessage, and it's ready to push it forward on its own, as carriers haven't really been bending over backwards in order to do so.
RCS is aimed to replace SMS messaging, and considering that relationship between carriers and smartphone manufacturers have been delaying the proper release for RCS, Google has decided to take over.
The company will offer RCS messaging to Android users in the UK and France later this month. In time, RCS should become available to all Android users, and thus act as an Android alternative to iMessage, as it will be a service via which all Android users can communicate through.
By doing this, Google is fixing one of RCS' biggest problems, not knowing when will it become available for specific users in certain regions. RCS still has an issue of not having proper end-to-end encryption, though, so that's another thing that will need to be sorted in the future. Luckily, it seems like Google is quite aware of that issue, and is working on solving it.
Sanaz Ahari, the product management director overseeing Android Messages, told to The Verge that Google is fully committed to finding a solution for its users, in regards to private messaging and proper encryption.
Google also said that the service will arrive to more countries "throughout the year", but did not confirm that it will be available all over the world by the end of 2019.
The ultimate goal is to fully replace SMS with RCS, of course, and in its SMS app, "Messages", Google refers to RCS messaging as "Chat". If you open that app, and you see a prompt offering to upgrade to RCS Chat, you'll be able to accept it. In time, this will be the default option, not just an opt-in.
RCS messages are encrypted in transit, but are not fully end-to-end encrypted. That means that your RCS provider can potentially see the contents of the messages you send, and that is something that users want to avoid.
RCS will offer basically everything a modern messaging app does, which is why it is seen as a replacement for SMS. Read receipts will be available, you'll be able to send high-quality attachments, typing indicators will be a part of the package as well, and so on.
So, there are two main problems when it comes to RCS now, and Google is trying to solve both. Proper end-to-end encryption is seemingly being worked at, while the company is pushing for a wider rollout to the service.
It will surely be interesting to see how far will Google be able to push RCS by the end of 2019. We're expecting to see it hit a lot of countries, but the company probably won't be able to do it in every region by the end of the year. Google may still surprise us, though, so all we have to do now is wait and see.