Google’s Messages app will now use RCS by default and encrypt group chats

Google announced today it’s making its Messages by Google app more secure with improvements to RCS, or Rich Communication Services — a protocol aimed at replacing SMS that is more on par with the advanced features found in Apple’s iMessage. The company says it will now make RCS the default for both new and existing Messages app users. In addition, end-to-end encryption for group chats is now fully rolled out to all RCS users.

The latter had launched into an open beta this year after earlier tests but was not fully launched until now. With this update, all conversations between users in Messages, whether 1:1 or group chats, will now be kept private, Google says.

Since rolling out RCS to U.S. Android users in 2019, Google has been campaigning in an effort to pressure Apple into adopting the technology in its own messaging service, iMessage. It even launched a website last year to explain why RCS benefits consumers, noting “It’s not about the color of the bubbles. It’s the blurry videos, broken group chats, missing read receipts and typing indicators, no texting over Wi-Fi and more.”

Google then went on to accuse Apple of refusing to adopt modern texting standards, to the detriment of its own customers’ experience, hoping to bring consumers into its fight.

However, Apple isn’t just falling behind in adopting modern tech as Google claims. It knows that iMessage is one of the biggest sources for ecosystem lock-in. The green bubbles are undesirable to Apple users, particularly young people. Plus, as the company has expressed in court filings, it has no interest in making a version of iMessage for Android, as it believed it would hurt the company more than it helped it.

Apple CEO Tim Cook was even once asked at a conference if Apple would adopt RCS so the user’s mother could better see the videos he sent her. To that, he replied, “Buy your mom an iPhone.”

Regardless, Google’s efforts in moving forward with RCS continue.

The feature will now be enabled as the default for all users, Google says, unless they had previously turned off RCS in their Settings. Users will continue to be able to opt-out by switching RCS off in Settings after today’s rollout as well, a help document indicates.

With RCS enabled, users are able to take advantage of more advanced messaging features, like sharing high-res photos and videos; see typing indicators; get read receipts; send messages over mobile data and Wi-Fi; rename, edit and remove themselves from group chats; and use end-to-end encryption — a host of features iMessage users have had for years.

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