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It’s time.

Not only that, it’s been time for nearly half a generation.

And yet, even as Apple’s iMessage has evolved to almost keep up with a swath of multi-function texting apps, the smartphone’s last dinosaur — Android’s Short Messaging Service, or SMS — was still used to send 40billion texts in 2018 alone.

Until now, Google just couldn’t rid itself of SMS without suffering setbacks.

 

Devised as a way to transmit messages through phone carrier signal systems in 1982, SMS went mainstream in 1992 and proceeded to go stale ever since.

Since then, the likes of WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, and Facebook Messenger have left it in the dust with now-expected features such as message-received notifications, group messaging, graphics, and streaming.

Once Apple’s standard-issue iMessenger got just as versatile, Google’s SMS offering has basically been a vanilla annoyance.

It’s not like the behemoth hasn’t tried to find a popular way to cast SMS aside, but  tech and/or marketing problems always got in the way.

 

Now, they’re finally sure they’ve got it sorted, so SMS is gradually being replaced by Rich Communication Services, or RCS.

Here’s Dieter Bohn of The Verge to explain:

 

In essence, then, when your smartphone’s carrier incorporates into the system, you’ll have RCS instead of SMS, and you’ll see it as Chat with this icon:

Google Chat icon

If you contact someone who doesn’t yet have RCS, they’ll get your message in SMS until their carrier upgrades.

They’ll likely want access themselves sooner rather than later:

 

The RCS rollout is thus in process, and it can be downloaded in the Play Store under Messages.

Here’s how to determine if your phone has RCS support:

  • Open the app and hit the menu in the top right-hand corner;
  • Select settings;
  • Select Chat features;
  • They’ll tell you whether you have support and if it’s enabled; and
  • If you see the word Chat in the app, the person you’re messaging also has RCS.

When RCS becomes available via Google or your provider, you’ll receive a notification asking you to opt in. You’ll have to agree to Google’s terms and conditions.

 

Google’s also released a web version of Android Messages so users will be able to pair their Messages app to the web service via a QR code, allowing the full Chat experience from a computer.

It’s ironic that a central pillar of Big Tech is the last to move its messaging platform into the 21st century, but that’s what comes with open source.

Being clear, then, Chat is not another Android-based messaging app; it’s the user-friendly name for the RCS protocol. It’s not necessarily breaking new ground, but it’s given Google a ubiquitous platform that can finally compete with what’s out there.

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