Google today announced that it is now rolling out to all of its users in the U.S. support for Rich Communication Services messages (you can think of it as the next generation of SMS) in the Android Messages app, after already testing it with a small set of users in recent months. For Google, this push for RCS is also a way for the company to more effectively compete with Apple’s iMessages (though it doesn’t feature end-to-end encryption) and because Google has mostly taken control of this rollout away from carriers, it gets to call the shots on when users get access to this, not the telcos. It already did this in the U.K. and France earlier this year, so the company has some experience in managing this service.
It’s also no secret that Google’s messaging strategy, at least for consumers, remains messy, with Hangouts still being a widely used tool. At least on mobile, Google hopes that Messages, which until now was essentially the company’s SMS client, can take over that role. Like other messaging services, RCS support in Messages will allow you to talk to your friends over Wi-Fi or mobile data and send photos and videos. You will also get read receipts, typing notifications and all the usual messaging features you’d expect.
With Google taking control of the rollout, it’s also now responsible for keeping this network running, and there are some legitimate concerns about the company owning this over the carriers. On the other hand, though, the carriers didn’t do them any favors by making their own RCS rollouts as messy as possible, up to the point where Google really didn’t have an option but to do this itself. For Android users, though, this is good news, even though they will still show up with a green bubble on iPhones — and will hence be judged by their iPhone-using friends.