Android Messages Google Pixel 2 XL AA 1
TL;DR
  • Today, Verizon announced the default Verizon RCS app on Android smartphones will be Google’s Messages.
  • This means the three big carriers in the US will all adopt Messages as the default Android texting solution.
  • That also means Apple would be putting iPhone users in a precarious situation if it doesn’t also adopt RCS protocols.

For years now, the big carriers in the United States have dragged their collective feet when it comes to rich communication services (RCS). The RCS protocol is the next evolution of SMS/MMS messaging, allowing for larger file transfers, read receipts, location sharing, and more. Thankfully, Google took one for the team and bypassed the carriers by offering RCS support within its own Messages app.

It took a while, but the carriers have now seen the light. Today, via The Verge, we found out that the default Verizon RCS app will be Messages starting in 2022. That means if you buy an Android phone from Verizon, it will come pre-loaded with Messages and it will have a prominent placement to encourage its use.

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Both T-Mobile and AT&T have already agreed to do the same. That means, starting next year, nearly every Android phone sold in the United States will have Messages installed and set as the default texting app. Finally, some cohesion!

However, this Verizon RCS news does not spell the end for Big Red’s own Verizon Message Plus app. Since that app still is the only way to sync messages across Verizon devices, it will stick around on its phones. The company says it is working with Google to allow for a simple transfer of this information, which would, theoretically, allow Verizon to sunset VM+ eventually.

Verizon RCS: What about iPhones?

Apple Messages

Without a doubt, this information is great news for Android users. It will make it very simple for even the most non-techy folks out there to gain the benefits of RCS chats — which includes end-to-end encryption. Messages already encrypts all person-to-person chats (assuming each person is using Messages). Eventually, it will support encrypted group chats too, and it’s rumored Google could offer RCS support to third-party apps. Theoretically, all Android messaging would be encrypted in a few years.

That’s great for Android, but what about iPhones? Since Apple is wholly invested in its own iMessage app — which does not incorporate RCS support — Apple would be leaving iPhone users high and dry. iMessage encrypts chats within iMessage, but chats with Android users would lack encryption. This puts Apple in a real pickle.

Related: Apple is more interested in protecting its fiefdom than it is in iPhone security

On one hand, Apple could continue doing what it does, which is to keep chats between iPhones and Android devices insecure. However, if nearly all Android-to-Android chats are secure using an open protocol, Apple would be taking a hypocritical stance on its privacy and security standards. After all, it can’t say security is of paramount importance but then continue to leave a wide-open security hole for its users when they message someone on Android.

Conversely, if Apple adopts RCS protocols within iMessage, the app would lose its exclusivity. This is something Apple takes very seriously, as iMessage is one of the leading reasons iPhone users in the US don’t switch to Android.

Time will tell how Apple will respond to this. But with Messages as the default Verizon RCS app, it can’t ignore the situation any longer. It’s either going to need to change iMessage or play down its “security first” stance.