Google has been working with US phone carriers to lay the ground work for RCS. That groundwork is now complete, with AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and fifty-three other carriers to support RCS. RCS, Rich Communication Services, is a communication protocol intended to replace MMS and SMS, which first came into use in 1992. RCS supports read receipts and better handles group messaging and multimedia. However, it does not currently support end-to-end encryption.
Google has been pushing RCS, but its current implementation of RCS is not so much a full replacement for SMS, but rather its own answer to iMessage for Android. This RCS implementation comes in the form of “chat features” for Google’s Messages app. Android users, by enabling chat features, can send and receive RCS messages to and from other Android users with the Messages app. Both the latest version of Messages and Carrier Services are required to enable chat features. Google has a guide available for those who need help troubleshooting.
Since RCS is meant to be a replacement for MMS and SMS, developers of other text messaging apps, such as Textra SMS, are hoping Google will release RCS APIs to allow for RCS implementation in third-party apps. Fortunately, there are signs that these APIs may become available with Android Q. Until third-party apps and Apple support RCS, MMS and SMS will continue as the universal, cross-platform communication protocols. Many carriers outside the US also have yet to support RCS.