US Android users were treated to an early Christmas present over the weekend, when it was announced that Google will roll out its Rich Communication Services (RCS) for all Android users based in the States.
End of 2019
Google has confirmed that it will make the feature available for all US Android users by the end of 2019. A tweet from Android Messages product manager Sanaz Ahari confirmed that the successor to the SMS system will go live with all users in the United States as of this week.
Hi everyone! RCS is now available to all users in US as of Monday. Make sure to update both Messages and Carrier Services.
— Sanaz (@sanazahari) December 12, 2019
SMS has clearly been a hugely popular system, but the new protocol delivers some welcome advantages and advances.
It has been noted that RCS is heavily influenced by iMessage, the standard protocol on Apple mobile devices, which has ensured that many mobile users stick with iOS and the iPhone range.
Thus, key features included in the Android system are read receipts, the ability to see another user typing in real-time, larger file transfers and improved group messaging. These will all be welcome additions to the palette of features on Android, but it is slightly disappointing that end-to-end encryption is still conspicuous by its absence.
Moves made by the four major carriers in the United States have already accelerated the adoption of RCS as a messaging system. In an extremely rare example of a joint effort, the four primary carriers announced an agreement to form the ‘Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative’ to jointly implement RCS using a newly-developed app.
While the switch to RCS will probably take a significant period of time in some countries, access to the feature has already been made possible in Mexico, Britain and France. Google has indicated that more countries are set to follow the three pioneering territories in the near future, although no specific details are available at the time of writing.
RCS was originally introduced in the UK, Mexico and France earlier this year, but the system has been subjected to years of delays, before the highly limited rollout was implemented. And even with the RCS system now in place, Google is continuing to work on bringing support for the messaging to third-party applications.
Other countries outside of the approved RCS system will continue to rely heavily on third-party messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. And, of course, Apple and its iPhone, iOS, and iMessage systems remains hugely popular, and will continue to account for a vast number of mobile users.
In a tweet announcing the rollout of RCS, Ahari reminded users of the importance of updating both the Messages and Carrier services in order to gain access to the new text messaging system.
While the update will be welcomed by many users, the ongoing initiative of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint is intended to produce a parallel technology, which could be adopted by a wide range of Android devices.