Say bye to SMS. As of last week, Google finished rolling out RCS messaging on Android phones in the U.S.—meaning, it’s available regardless of carrier in the country.
To recap, RCS, or Rich Communication Services, is a type of messaging protocol that does a hell of a lot more than basic SMS. For starters, it has an 8,000 character limit compared to SMS’s 160, supports read receipts, and can use Wi-Fi to send messages. It’s more like Apple’s iMessage or more modern messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.
That said, RCS isn’t exactly new. Google’s been making waves about it replacing SMS since at least 2016. Unfortunately, carriers have been slow to roll out RCS as network and software updates are needed to make it work. A few months ago, Google said it was speeding up the process by directly letting users opt-in. At the time there wasn’t a clear timeline, but everyone in the U.S. should be able to do so now. International users might have to wait a bit longer, depending on where they live.
Editor's Note: Stay tuned for news of an Australian roll-out.
To enable RCS, all phone users in eligible countries need to do is have the latest versions of the Google Messages app and Carrier Services. If RCS isn’t enabled by default, then they should receive a “Do more with Messages” notification that will come with the option to toggle it on.
There are still a few caveats. While users will be able to reap the benefits of RCS, it only works if the person they're messaging also has RCS enabled. Similarly, RCS messages aren’t end-to-end encrypted just yet, so if privacy is a major priority, users might be better off sticking with Signal or Telegram. Also, unlike Apple’s iMessage, users can’t sync their messages across multiple Android devices. That said, it’s still light years better than SMS.