AT&T is the latest wireless carrier to flip the switch on Google’s Rich Communication Services (RCS). The move will see Messages by Google replacing the default messaging app for all AT&T customers with Android phones. The largest US wireless carrier joins T-Mobile who agreed on the exact same partnership with Google in March this year. Verizon is now the only remaining big carrier to fully commit to RCS.
RCS is a more advanced messaging technology and a successor to the traditional messaging system, SMS. It offers features that are more akin to modern instant messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and others. You get chat features like typing indicator and read recipients, along with tons of other advantages over SMS including no character limits, support for larger files, group chats, and more. Google also recently added end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations.
Note that both the sender as well as the receiver need to have RCS enabled on their devices. If either device doesn’t support RCS, then the messages will be delivered over SMS and all existing limitations will apply. Messages by Google automatically detects if the recipient supports RCS. You will see a “Chatting with” banner at the top of the conversation. For SMS, you will see a “Texting with” banner. SMS and RCS messages are also differentiated by using different color shades for the text bubbles – light blue for SMS and dark blue for RCS.
RCS also requires mobile data or a Wi-Fi connection to work. If either the recipient or the sender is offline, the message will be held back until an internet connection is established. The sender can opt to send the message via SMS though.
AT&T finally joins Google’s RCS efforts
Google has been trying to replace SMS with RCS for years now. However, the company never really got the required support from carriers. There have been half-hearted supports that led to nowhere. The internet giant eventually decided to go around the carriers and bring RCS to mobile devices on its own. Those efforts are now starting to bear fruits as more and more carriers are getting on board.
Once Verizon fully rolls out RCS, messaging on Android devices will become all the more convenient and faster. This will ensure better interoperability with RCS across all wireless networks. Hopefully, the Big Red will not take much longer to adopt RCS.
That said, Apple doesn’t support RCS as well. It’s unclear whether the iPhone maker has any such plans for the immediate future.