AT&T has announced it’s collaborating with Google to make Messages by Google the default messaging app on all Android phones supported by the network. This means AT&T subscribers will have access to Rich Communication Services (RCS) and Messages by Google’s built-in encryption abilities.
RCS would effectively bring some iMessage-like features to all Android devices via the native Google Messages app. It includes simple features like an animated indicator to let you know a friend on the other end is typing out their reply. It’s also what enables nifty features like messaging over wifi and high-resolution photos and video. Of course, Apple would have to adopt RCS for it to work cross-platform. But for now, all Android users want is an iMessage-like way to interact with other devices running the same operating system on a different provider.
Google has been pushing carriers toward RCS since it announced compatibility with its messaging app back in 2019. With AT&T and T-Mobile on board, Verizon Wireless is the last hold-out, though RCS, or “Advanced Messaging,” is available on select Samsung devices. Part of why RCS adoption has stayed in a veritable gridlock is that the carriers have been dragging their feet. Before T-Mobile acquired Sprint, the carriers tried to form their own Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI) with another third party rather than adopt RCS. Google wasn’t part of that plan, which would have meant further fragmentation for Android users had the deal gone through.
AT&T subscribers will also have access to the other perks afforded through Messages by Google, including full-resolution photo sharing, high-quality video messages, read receipts, and the ability to send and receive messages over wifi. Group chats will also work a bit more fluidly, provided the other folks are on Android devices and have RCS available. (It’s always tricky when an iPhone user enters the chat.)
Google’s messaging fragmentation issue hasn’t been solved yet. But with AT&T’s near 45% market share in the U.S., it’ll hopefully light a fire under Verizon, the second largest carrier. It’s time for Big Red to abandon its bloated Verizon Messages app in favor of the stock app from Google that Android users want to use. Just don’t bet on Apple adopting it any time soon. Android users are lucky they even got an invite to FaceTime.
And none of this has anything to do with Google Chat, a standalone chat application connected to your Google account. That app also works on your mobile devices, though it’s akin to an instant messenger rather than a text message coming from your phone number. Regardless, all this consolidation work means Google is actively working on moving everyone toward unification.