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:
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.