It’s no secret thatto stick with Apple’s product lineup. Until recently, however, Android phones had struggled to compete with Apple’s texting solution. That’s changed, thanks to the rollout of , the company’s new text-messaging protocol, at the end of 2019.
The service is built into Google’s Messages app, and helps bring Google in line with Apple’s broad texting capabilities, like the ability to send full-resolution photos and little bubbles that let you know when someone is typing.
Even Samsung is getting in on the act. It recently announced that its Messages app will soon begin using the same RCS technology that’s available in Google’s Messages app. If you own a , your best bet is to use the Google Messages app for now, at least until Samsung completes its rollout. We’ll update this post as we learn more.
Google has tried its hand at many different messaging services, lagging behind Facebook Messenger and Apple’s iMessage to gain any real traction. With RCS Messaging so tightly intertwined with text messaging, Google may have finally found itself a winner. RCS Messaging doesn’t really roll off the tongue, so within the Messages app, Google refers to the service as Chat.
Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need to do to turn on the new feature, as well as some of the more nuanced aspects of RCS Messaging.
Get started with Google’s Chat feature
First, you’ll need an Android phone with Google’s Messages app installed and set as the default text messaging app. The first time you launch Messages, it will ask if you want to set it as your default app. Just follow the prompts and don’t worry, you won’t lose your conversation history by switching.
After setting Messages as your default messaging app, take a couple of minutes and set up Messages for Web, which allows you to send and receive text messages from your computer.
RCS messages will work in the US, UK, France or Mexico. There isn’t an official list of countries where RCS support is active, but Android Police has received reports from users in Italy, Portugal, and Singapore starting to see Chat active.
Turn Google’s Chat features on
After installing Google’s Messages app and setting it as your default texting app, there are two different ways to enable Chat. You can either wait for a prompt in the Messages app asking if you want to see when your friends are typing, or you can go into the Settings section of Messages and look for the switch to turn Chat on.
When you get the prompt, tap Upgrade Now then follow the prompts and enter your phone number if asked. You can also open Messages and tap on the three-dot menu button (top-right corner of the app) and select Settings > Chat Features. If Chat Features isn’t in the settings section, then your account doesn’t have access to RCS quite yet.
This same settings page is also where you can go to turn your read receipts on or off, as well as disable the typing indicator whenever you’re typing and control what happens if Chat fails to send a message.
If you run into issues with sending messages, you can also view the current status of your phone’s connection to the Chat service in the settings app. As long as it says Connected, your phone number is registered with Chat and should use the service whenever you’re talking to a contact who also has Chat enabled.
That’s an important aspect of Chat. Whoever you’re talking to will also need to have the feature enabled on their device to use the new chat features, though of course all usual texting features still apply.
You’ll be able to take advantage sooner by getting your friends to use Google Messages. You can guide them through the setup process (or send them a link to this post).
Use the new Chat features in a conversation
After you turn on chat features, the Messages app will continue to work and look the same, and you should keep using it the same way you always have. The app knows when you’re talking to someone through text or another contact with chat turned on.
The easiest way to tell if a conversation is using old-fashioned text messaging or the new chat features is to look at the text box before you start typing. If the box says “Chat message” then the conversation will have typing indicators, read receipts, and the rest of the features that RCS Messaging offers.
When chat features are in use, you’ll see delivered and read receipts underneath each message you’ve sent, and you can send full-resolution photos and share files with fellow chat users. You don’t have to do anything special to send a high-resolution image, just tap on the photo icon in the app and pick photo or video. You’ll see a loading circle on the image as it’s uploaded and sent, but otherwise the process looks and works the same as sending a text message.
Because Chat works over mobile data or Wi-Fi, you can put your phone in airplane mode and you’ll still be able to send and receive messages with other Chat users.
Switching phones? Make sure you turn Chat off
Yes, and in fact, you should do so before you remove the SIM card from your phone. If you forget to turn off chat features before moving your SIM card to a new phone, chat features could continue to work for up to eight days. Meaning, you may not get messages sent to your number by someone using chat.
Note: Your messages aren’t encrypted
Google doesn’t currently encrypt your conversations with fellow chat users. The conversations are sent securely from your phone to Google’s server and then to the recipient’s phone, after which the messages are deleted from Google’s server, but those messages aren’t end-to-end encrypted.
You can use apps like WhatsApp and Signal, or Apple’s iMessage if you prefer end-to-end encryption.