After two long, complicated years, every Android user worldwide (outside China) now has access to the next-gen texting standard that is replacing SMS. Google is directly offering RCS chat services through its Android Messages app to anybody who installs it and uses it as their default texting app, which partly bypasses a carrier rollout that, at times, has ranged from sluggish to incoherent to broken. From a report Just as importantly, Google has announced that it’s finally beginning to enable a key privacy feature: end-to-end encryption. For Android users who use Android Messages, one-on-one chats will eventually be end-to-end encrypted by default, meaning neither carriers nor Google will be able to read the content of those messages. Even though encryption is only beginning to roll out to people who sign up for the public beta for Android Messages, turning on encryption for RCS is a very big deal. It’s a massive privacy win, as it could mean that the de facto replacement for SMS will, by default, be private on the smartphone platform used by the vast majority of people worldwide. As for the people who use that other smartphone platform — the iPhone — we have no word on whether Apple intends to adopt the RCS standard. But as every carrier worldwide gets on board, and now that there is a clearer path to ensuring private communication with RCS, the pressure on Apple to participate is likely to build. Unfortunately, SMS becoming fully deprecated and replaced by RCS will only happen if all goes to plan for Google. Since initially announcing plans to transition to RCS as the primary texting platform for Android, the standard’s rollout has been mired in confusion. In attempting to be neutral and make Android’s texting a standard shared by carriers worldwide, Google set itself up with the job of herding multibillion-dollar cats — with sadly predictable results.
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