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Google activates RCS messaging in the US (Update: Available to all US users)

Regardless of your carrier or smartphone make and model, you can now use RCS messaging in the United States.

Published onDecember 13, 2019

google messages chat features read receipts typing indicators rcs app google pixel 4 xl 5

Update, December 13, 2019 (2:23AM ET): RCS messaging is now available to all Android users in the US. Google’s Head of Communication Products, Sanaz Ahari, confirmed the news in a tweet. Users are advised to update both the Messages and Carrier Services apps to be able to use RCS.

Hi everyone! RCS is now available to all users in US as of Monday. Make sure to update both Messages and Carrier Services.
— Sanaz (@sanazahari) December 12, 2019

In order to update your carrier services, head to the Google Play Store. Now, tap the hamburger menu > My Apps & Games > Update Carrier Services. You can then follow the steps here to activate RCS messaging on your phone’s Android Messages app.

News of the widespread availability comes just under a month after Google first announced that it was turning on RCS in the country.

Original Article, November 14, 2019 (12:32 PM ET): The day is finally here: if you use the Messages app as your texting application, you now or will soon have access to RCS messaging in the United States. It doesn’t matter which wireless carrier you use or what the make and model of your smartphone is — if you use Messages, Google is switching it on for you.

Previously, savvy users discovered a hack to turn this feature on ahead of time. That hack stopped working off and on for a bit, but now it looks like the hack won’t be necessary.

Keep in mind that once you get RCS features on your phone, the other person(s) you’re communicating with will also need to be using Messages for all RCS features to work. However, that’s a small price to pay to finally step up from SMS/MMS messaging on your smartphone.

Related: RCS messaging: Why I’m not hyped

In order to access RCS messaging — which Google brands as Chat — you’ll need to turn on the feature within the Messages app. You should see a notification to do so at some point soon if you’re already using Messages, but it could take a while before you see the feature as Google is doing one of its classic slow rollouts for the new setting.

Once you do turn on Chat, you will see new features and tools when you text with someone who also uses the Messages app and enabled Chat. For example, you’ll be able to see when they are typing, whether or not they’ve read your message, and even send cute animated GIFs. Check it out in action below:

RCS messaging Chat features in Messages

What happens if you are using Messages but the person you’re communicating with is not? If that’s the case, the messages you send and receive will default back to the regular SMS/MMS protocols and things will work as they have for the past decade.

Unfortunately, this will also be the case if you are texting with someone who uses an iPhone and relies on iMessages. Your texts with them will still turn the chat window into green bubbles and read receipts, typing notifications, etc. will not appear on either side of the conversation. In order for this to change, Apple would need to alter the way it runs its own messaging system.

Still, Google turning on RCS messaging without getting the wireless carriers in the United States on board first is a big, bold step by the company. Now that Google has made the move, the carriers will need to respond by finally getting in gear and rolling out some form of a network-agnostic RCS system. Although, judging from their announcement of their intention to create a new RCS-enabled messaging app — rather than working together to make it so any messaging app can take advantage of RCS features — doesn’t bode well. But hey, whatever, we can just use Messages and the carriers can continue to hang out in the early 2000s.

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