It took the best half a decade, but the Rich Communication Services (RCS) protocol finally found a way to ubiquity in the United States. Following similar announcements from T-Mobile and AT&T earlier this year, Verizon (Engadget’s parent company) he said today works with Google to bring the next generation of replacement SMS to all of its customers.
By the end of the year, existing Verizon subscribers using the carrier’s Message + app will gain full access to the RCS suite, including real-time typing indicators and incoming readings. Then, starting next year, all of the company’s phones will come with it Messages from Google app preinstalled. Once that happens, RCS benefits like end-to-end encryption for one-on-one conversations and the ability to send photos at full resolution will be an app.
To say that today’s announcement is a significant milestone for Google would be an understatement. The company has been pushing RCS for years, and at times it seemed like the project was destined to languish like so many past Google’s mobile messaging efforts. Because of the need to purchase the carrier, the protocol didn’t “just work” like iMessage, at least not initially.
In the early years, even if you went out of your way to download Google Messages, there was no guarantee that you would get any of its promised benefits. That’s because, more often than not, it was likely that the person you were sending an SMS didn’t had an RCS-capable app installed on their phone, nor were they with a carrier that was on board with the platform. This meant that most Android chats would default to SMS. With Google Messages now the default for most new Android phones in the United States, it’s a situation that should be the exception, not the norm. Today’s announcement also leaves Apple in a strange situation. Once an innovator in space, society is now on the outside looking for a more widely adopted ecosystem.
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