- Google is leading a group that's supporting a new universal standard for SMS.
- The current standard, SMS, is limited in many ways; Apple's iMessage solved those limitations, and now Google is playing catch-up with Android.
- The new standard is named RCS, or rich communication services. It will be deployed in Google's own Messages app on Android, the default Android text-messaging app.
- Other major Android phone makers like Samsung, Huawei, and HTC are signed on as well.
Google is making a major change to the way Android handles text messages, and it's a direct attempt to stay competitive with Apple's iMessage dominance.
Google's Messages app — the standard text-messaging app on Android — will become "Chat," according to The Verge. With that change comes the ability to send prettier photos, longer messages, and lots of other "rich" interactivity.
As it is now, Android uses standard SMS text messaging, which is limited to a certain number of characters, and multimedia (photos, video) is highly compressed (it looks bad).
With Google Chat, Android text messaging will become much more like Apple's beloved iMessage.
All these new features in Android text messaging are due to the adoption of RCS, or rich communications services, a new standard for text messaging. In short, the RCS standard operates on data networks (like Apple's iMessage) instead of phone networks (like traditional SMS text messaging).
Moreover, Google has a bunch of big phone makers signed on to RCS — from Samsung to LG to Huawei and HTC.
If someone on a Pixel sends a message to a Samsung Galaxy S9, for instance, they can share "RCS" messages — theoretically, anyway, as Samsung is one of the companies that's signed on. And if you try sending a message and the other person's phone doesn't support RCS? They'll receive it as a standard SMS message (similarly to iMessages showing up for Android users as SMS messages).
For now, Apple isn't signed on to support RCS messaging: No, the iPhone will not support these messages. At least not for now. Also of note: RCS messages aren't as secure as iMessages; there's no "end to end" encryption, which prevents communications from being intercepted by third parties.
The changes to Android text messaging are coming in the next year, according to The Verge.
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