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Every Android Phone Now Has RCS Messaging. Here’s What You Should Know

December 16, 2019, 8:04 PM UTC

Google’s Android users finally have access to a new messaging protocol that promises many of the benefits Apple users already get from iMessage.

As of late last week, all U.S. Android users now have access to Rich Communication Services (RCS), a far more powerful messaging platform and an alternative to the widely-used text messaging protocol called short message service, or SMS.

With RCS, Android users now have access to key features that Apple’s iMessage users have had for years, including read receipts that tell users when people they’re chatting with have seen their messages, the ability to send richer media, like high-resolution images, and typing bubbles that let users see when the person they’re chatting with is typing a message.

Overall, RCS is a major improvement compared to SMS. But if you’re new to RCS, you likely have plenty of questions.

Read on to learn more about RCS and the features that you can (and cannot) access with this rollout:

What is RCS?

RCS is the new messaging protocol on Android devices. It’s an alternative for SMS and more closely matches the features available in Apple’s iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. With RCS, you’ll be able to send richer, more engaging text messages than you could on SMS.

How does RCS compare to SMS?

RCS is a major upgrade over SMS. For instance, in SMS, you could send basic text messages with images that would often look small and pixelated.

With RCS, the experience is much better. You can now send GIFs and high-resolution photos and videos. And although SMS messages were limited to 160 characters, RCS has no character limit. You can even send much larger files over RCS, like PDFs and Word documents.

Depending on your preferences, you can decide whether you want to send read receipts with RCS (something you couldn’t do with SMS). Typing bubbles will also show up in RCS chats, so you can see when friends are writing you something.

Group chatting is available on RCS, and you can name the chat groups you’re in. And if you want to send messages over Wi-Fi or cellular connections, it’ll work either way.

Interestingly, RCS could be a boon for businesses. Now, companies can send information like delivery information and order statuses that can show maps or images instead of plain text. Chatting will also be easier and more visual between companies and consumers.

Which devices work with RCS?

With this release, RCS works on all U.S. carrier networks and all Android devices. It’s available in the Android Messages app on all Android devices. RCS also works with the Samsung’s messaging app on Galaxy phones.

Does RCS work outside the U.S.?

Not yet. And so far, neither Google nor carriers overseas are saying when RCS will be available to international Android users. But it’s coming.

Does Apple support RCS?

While you can still send SMS messages to Apple users, RCS chatting isn’t available. Apple hasn’t said whether it’ll eventually support RCS, but there have been reports that it’s considering it. For now, though, the benefits of RCS are only realized when two (or more) Android users are communicating.

How secure is RCS?

Unlike iMessage or WhatsApp, RCS doesn’t support end-to-end encryption, which encrypts messages as they travel from sender to recipient. That means messages sent over RCS could technically be intercepted and viewed by third-parties.

Apple’s iMessage and WhatsApp both use end-to-end encryption, so the only people who can read the messages are those in the chat. That has been a major point of contention between Apple and law enforcement agencies, which have wanted access to messages sent over iMessage for their investigative work.

How can I get RCS and is it free?

RCS is available for free to all Android users. Better yet, they don’t need to download an app to make it work. Instead, users need to update their phone’s carrier services app, which refreshes their phone’s connection to the carrier network to get all the latest features, including RCS. Users also need to update their messaging app.

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