Google has been trying to upgrade SMS messaging for years, by supporting the next-gen RCS protocol that enables features like read receipts, transferring high-quality photos and videos, and chatting over WiFi.
But the rollout of RCS support for Android phones has been hampered in the US by wireless carriers, who have been slow to support the technology.
Last month carriers announced that they’d finally jump aboard the RCS train.
So Google’s announcement today that it’s finally ready to bypass the carriers seems oddly timed… but maybe it make sense when you consider that Google wants you to use its own Messages app, while the carriers are going to roll out a new messaging app.
Anyway, The Verge has a breakdown of how RCS works and how Google is going to let you use it even if your wireless carrier doesn’t support it yet.
But here are the key takeaways:
- Want to use RCS in the US today? Your best bet is through Google’s Messages app.
- You can check to see if RCS is enabled for you by opening the app and checking the status in the “Chat Features” menu.
- If you have a Samsung phone, you may need to download the Messages app from the Play Store. Most other Android phones have it pre-loaded.
Once enabled, RCS allows SMS messaging to work a little more like dedicated chat apps such as WhatsApp or iMessage — at least when you’re chatting with another user that also has RCS enabled.
Optional chat features available via the Google Messages app include:
- Support sending data over WiFi when it’s available.
- Send read receipts to let other users know when you’ve read their messages.
- Show typing indicators to let other users know when you’re inputting text.
- Resend a message automatically if it fails to go through the first time (when you’re not roaming).
- Automatically download files you receive by using mobile data (you can set file size limits for this feature).