Google stops waiting on lazy carriers, starts RCS rollout on Android

Google has stopped waiting for lazy carriers to support RCS (Rich Communication Services) and is now rolling it out for Android smartphones regardless.

The RCS standard promises an iMessage-like experience for all supporting devices, regardless of platform. That means typing notifications, no archaic character limits, group messaging, rich media, location sharing, the works.

Industry body the GSM Association created a universal profile which sets out rules to enable RCS for consumers. The profile has quite a bit of support:

universal-profile

Perhaps it goes without saying given the company’s typical walled approach, but Apple is not included. That’s fine, non-iOS users have been left out from the iMessage party, but there are still many operators that don’t support RCS – and that is a problem.

Rather than wait for new operators to join the action, Google is now rolling out RCS support for all Android devices… in limited countries, of course.

The UK and France are first to get in on the fun with users set to receive a prompt to upgrade to RCS Chat when they open their default Android messaging app. A label saying ‘Chat’ will appear when speaking to someone whose device also supports RCS, else it will fall back on SMS.

Aside from the currently limited rollout, there are some other downsides to RCS over iMessage. The main two disadvantages are no cross-device sync and lack of end-to-end encryption.

Sanaz Ahari, Product Director for Android Messages at Google, told The Verge that Google is working on the privacy issue:

“We fundamentally believe that communication, especially messaging, is highly personal and users have a right to privacy for their communications. And we’re fully committed to finding a solution for our users.”

For now, the privacy-conscious may want to steer clear of RCS on Android. However, it’s great to see Google taking proactive action in making RCS more widely available for those who want it.

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