After two long years, every Android user in the world can now use the next generation of text messaging standards instead of text messages. Through its Android Messages app, Google offers RCS chat directly to anyone who installs it as the default SMS app without the involvement of a mobile operator. Equally important, Google announced that it was finally starting to enable a key privacy feature: end-to-end encryption, which means neither operators nor Google can read the content of the information.
Although encryption is only beginning to be rolled out to users who sign up for android Messages, turning encryption on for RCS is a very important thing. This is a huge privacy victory because it means that on smartphone platforms used by the vast majority of people around the world, the de facto replacement of text messages will be private by default. As for the iPhone, we haven’t heard whether Apple intends to adopt the RCS standard.
Since the initial announcement of plans to transition to RCS as Android’s main messaging platform, the promotion of the standard has been in disarray. Last year, Google began doing its own work, slowly allowing users in different countries to get RCS services directly from Google, rather than waiting for operators to turn them on. Today, the company announced that the process has been completed and that RCS services are available through Android Messages everywhere Google provides services. In some regions and some carriers, Google will continue to allow these carriers to run your RCS services if they choose.
As mentioned earlier, Google will launch a beta version this month, and Google doesn’t have a timetable for when encrypted chat will graduate into the main app. And for those willing to sign up for android Messages, be aware that, as usual, Google will be rolling it out gradually, so you may not get the encryption right away. End-to-end encryption works in one-to-one chats only if both users are using Android Messages and have received updates. Enabling end-to-end encryption in group chat is a trickier issue, so Google won’t commit to extending the timeline for the feature.