The road to an Android version of iMessage has been long and grueling, though we might be closer to an end thanks to Google Messages and RCS
For years, one of the notable features of iPhones has been a consistent messaging experience across phones and carriers – iMessage. One app can both send text messages and participate in rich communication with stickers, message effects, reactions, and large attachments. Android has long not enjoyed such a feature.
The history of RCS
To change this, Google turned to Rich Communications Services (RCS). In 2018, Google and Samsung both worked to bring RCS to their respective messaging apps. In addition, carriers had been introducing so-called “Advanced Messaging” based off of RCS. The issue, though, was that each carrier used different RCS profiles, which meant that you could only enjoy Advanced Messaging with people on your own network.
In 2019, carriers tried to fix this by creating the Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI). This group had a goal of creating a unified messaging experience by 2020. This goal wasn’t met, but I’m going to assume that this was probably due to some..global circumstances, to put it lightly. There wasn’t a complete lack of progress, though.
In 2020, T-Mobile switched to RCS Universal Profile 1.0, which meant that cross-carrier RCS messaging could occur; assuming that the other carrier also supported the Profile and both individuals used Google Messages. Then, earlier this year, T-Mobile fully switched all users to Google Messages as the default messaging app on their devices.
AT&T is now doing the same thing. Google Messages will become the default messaging app for all AT&T Android phones moving forward. This means that AT&T customers will be able to: send larger files, see typing indicators, and have easy group chats where people can be added and removed with ease.
Google has also introduced end to-end encryption for RCS chats. There’s little info about the rollout over at AT&T, but this announcement is a massive step towards a unified messaging experience across all Android phones. Now, the only holdout is Verizon.