Android text messaging will get an overhaul with RCS- (Rich Communication Service) rather than SMS-based messages. It's currently known as 'Chat' within the Android Messages app (where available), but the exact branding is decided by carriers.

RCS is a universal standard, which Google hopes will enable its messaging service to meet the standards of key rivals, including Apple's iMessage. It's moved its Allo team off that project to focus exclusively on RCS.

Google has tried many times in the past attempted to develop a unified messaging app, but with RCS it finally stands a chance of getting it right - and without requiring users to download a new app. 

What is RCS?

Google Chat, or RCS, is not in itself an app, but it will introduce new features to the Android Messages app. As such it makes the standard SMS look very old-hat.

These new features include:

  • Read receipts
  • Group texts
  • The ability to see when others are typing
  • Full-resolution images and video
  • Location sharing

Whereas phone contracts typically include a set number of text messages, RCS messages will be taken from the data plan just as they are with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger.

If a recipient's device does not support RCS then the message will be sent as a standard SMS, though this will take place behind the scenes without the user needing to switch to another app.

Is there a catch?

Unfortunately, the one thing RCS does not include is end-to-end encryption, so 'Chat' still won't be as secure as some rival messaging services. It's not about to kill off WhatsApp, at least not to those who care about their messages falling into the wrong hands.

When will Android get RCS messages?

Google is still in talks with carriers, OEMs and manufacturers, but already has some big names on board. Google will push Chat in the next 12 to 18 months, according to Engadget.