Although we have heard that the RCS (Rich Communication Services) protocol will replace SMS, in fact the use of the service was almost impossible due to the complicated policy of mobile providers and telephone companies.
But Google seems to have found a solution: later this month, Android users in the UK and France will be able to opt for RCS chat services provided directly by Google, instead of telephony providers.
For the first time, Google will offer a default text messaging experience directly to Android users instead of waiting for mobile providers. It's not the same Google service as Apple's iMessage for Android users, but it's very close.
The biggest problem with RCS is that messages are still not encrypted end-to-end like iMessage, WhatsApp and Signal that are secured this way. Even Facebook (!) Has stated that it will make all applications encrypted by default.
But there is a hope. Sanaz Ahari, product manager for Android messaging, says Google recognizes the need for private chat on RCS and is working on it:
We fundamentally believe that communication, and in particular the exchange of messages, is highly personal and users have a right to privacy in their communications. We are fully committed to finding a solution for our users.
So if you have an Android device, the RCS release time is near. Google says it will make the service available in more countries "all year round", but does not commit to launching it in all countries.
As with everything related to Google's messaging strategy in general and Rich Communication Services (RCS) in particular, nothing is done with the speed or clarity we would like. But it will eventually happen although there are not many details at the moment.
How Google's RCS service will work
RCS is the next generation texting protocol agreed upon by most mobile providers around the world. Eventually it will come to replace SMS. It offers most of the features you'd expect from a modern messaging app, such as read proofs, and more (though, again, it won't have end-to-end encryption). Google's Android Messaging app will refer to RCS as "Chat" or "Chat."
The process will be opt-in. That is: When users open the Android Messaging application, they will be able to choose between the old service or the upgrade to the Chat RCS service.
This will also apply to new phones. RCS Chat will come as the default app and will be offered to every Android user, but for now it will not be the default.
The new service will be available in the UK and France this month, and later to all Android users.
So if at some point you get a prompt to change the service, click Yes to enable Google RCS. Then if you see a "Chat" application and you will be able to talk to someone else who has RCS.
Messages will be encrypted during transfer, but will not be fully encrypted end to end. This way the RCS provider (ie Google) will be able to see the content of your messages and give them to the government, or use them for its own benefit.
Google of course states that it will delete them from its servers as soon as they are delivered to your phone.