Texting 2.0: Google rebrands Messenger to support next-gen SMS

hangouts loses sms support nexus 5 google messenger icons
Robert Nazarian/Digital Trends
Following Sprint, Rogers, and Telenor, four new telecommunications providers will now support Google’s RCS Jibe platform: Vodafone Group, Globe Telecom, Orange, and Deutsche Telekom. To enforce a seamless experience on these networks, Google is also rebranding Messenger, the default texting application on some Android devices, to Android Messages.

RCS, or Rich Communication Services, is the follow-up to SMS and MMS. RCS lets users send higher-quality picture messages, participate in group chat, share their current location, and initiate video calls. It supports read receipts, typing indicators, and can even allow text participants to share media and other information while in a telephone conversation. It essentially brings texting up to speed with features available on instant messaging services like Facebook Messenger.

RCS implementation requires carrier support, but while carriers have been using the platform for some time now, they have not adhered to the universal standard. Google’s Jibe service aligns with the universal RCS profile, and it provides cloud and hub services to make it easier for carriers to adopt and roll out.

Orange S.A. has around 263 million customers worldwide, and Globe has about 48.4 million. Deutsche Telekom is the majority shareholder of T-Mobile, and also the parent company of numerous other telecommunications service providers. Vodafone also has a large presence, with networks in 26 countries.

T-Mobile has not officially announced support for RCS with Jibe yet, but the company’s CTO has said the “un-carrier” will support the platform some time this year.

Google’s says its partnership with these telecommunication providers represent more than a billion subscribers. There are 27 manufacturers and carriers in total launching RCS with Google.

“These partners have also committed to interconnecting through the Jibe RCS hub so that RCS messages are delivered to subscribers across carrier networks, helping RCS messaging become truly universal,” writes Amir Sarhangi, head of RCS at Google.

Android Messages

As Android owners may know, there has never been a universal texting application on Android devices. Google Messenger, which supports SMS, MMS, and RCS, comes pre-installed on many Android smartphones, but there’s usually a texting app from the carrier or manufacturer present as well, like AT&T Messages and Samsung Messages.

google android messages

To unify this experience, Google is rebranding Messenger to Android Messages. The tech giant said these telecom partners will enable it as the default texting application to bring RCS to subscribers.

To make sure Android devices can enjoy all the features RCS offers, Google is also working with the following manufacturers to make Android Messages the default messaging app on their smartphones: LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, Nokia, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony, and Wiko. More partners will be added in the future, and Android Messages will be the default texting app on Google’s Pixel and Android One devices as well.

RCS for businesses

google android messages rcs

Businesses have been using SMS to reach out to customers for quite some time. For example, your airline may send you a text with flight information, or a food service like Seamless may message you that your food’s on the way. Customers usually can’t do much else with these texts, and Google’s not giving up the chance to get these businesses to upgrade the messaging experience.

The company is launching an Early Access Program for businesses to learn and build with Jibe, so that their texts can offer richer information to customers as more and more carriers adopt the universal RCS profile.

“A message from your airline reminding you to check in for a flight can now take advantage of rich media and interactivity to provide a full check-in experience, complete with boarding pass, visual flight updates, and terminal maps on demand, all directly within the messaging experience,” Sarhangi said. “Businesses can also have a branded messaging experience with information about the business and the ability to share content like images, video clips, and GIFs.”

The following companies and messaging partners will be the first to partake in Google’s Early Access Program: Virgin Trains, Walgreens, BlaBlaCar, Gamestop, G2A.com, IHG, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Papa Murphy’s, Philips, Sky, Sonic Drive-In, Time Inc., 3C, CLX Communications, Experian Marketing Services, MessageBird, mGage, Mobivity, Movile, Vonage through Nexmo API Platform, OpenMarket, and Waterfall.

Google will be showing off RCS-enabled business messaging at Mobile World Congress next week.


How iPhone photographers connect the world using only ‘basic’ gear

August 19 is World Photography Day, marking progress from the daguerreotype to the iPhone. But how do today's photographers create a connection to viewers using basic gear? We talked to iPhone photographers and influencers around the world…

Quindim, quiche or quesito? What will Android Q be called?

We always like to wildly speculate about the next dessert-themed name for Android, but the letter Q is making that tougher than usual. Here are our best guesses and suggestions for the full name of Android Q.

Google is updating Android Go with Android 9 Pie Go Edition

Android Go is a lightweight version of Android that promises to improve the user experience on devices with low-end processors or 1GB of RAM or less. Here's everything you need to know about Android Go.

8 easy ways for you to transfer photos from an Android phone to a PC

If you haven't already, you should back up your photos to a computer. Here's how to transfer photos from an Android phone to a PC using third-party services and a wealth of storage devices.

Want to watch Netflix in bed or browse the web? We have a tablet for everyone

There’s so much choice when shopping for a new tablet that it can be hard to pick the right one. From iPads to Android, these are our picks for the best tablets you can buy right now whatever your budget.

From white skies to blurry subjects, how to fix common photo mistakes

You snapped the photo at the perfect moment, but the image is blurry. Understanding the most common photography mistakes can help capture better memories and more likable Instagrams. Here's how to fix these seven common photography…

New patent suggests multiuser support could one day come to Siri

A new patent suggests that a major improvement may be in the works for Apple's digital assistant. Nothing has been confirmed, but Apple may soon work on implementing multiuser support for Siri.

Is this proof Google plans to launch a Pixel Watch soon?

From its Pixel smartphones to Google Home, the Google brand is quickly becoming synonymous with high-quality consumer hardware. This year, it looks like Google may branch out a little further by creating its first smartwatch.

Samsung confirms the Galaxy S10 won't be the first 5G phone

It may be no more than a sparkle in Samsung's eye, but the Samsung Galaxy S10 is definitely coming. Here's everything we know about what's sure to be Samsung's most amazing creation so far.

Bigger battery and charging band may be in store for the Apple Watch Series 4

Ready for an all new Apple Watch for 2018? It looks like Apple may be planning a complete redesign with improved health features. Here are all the details about the upcoming Apple Watch Series 4.

Samsung's new Galaxy Watch touts ultra-tough glass, multiday battery life

Samsung has finally introduced a sequel to the Galaxy Gear S3 smartwatch -- called the Samsung Galaxy Watch. The new device features a slick design, Samsung's Tizen operating system, and a heart rate monitor to help you track your fitness.

A library at your fingertips: The 101 best free Kindle books

You shouldn't always have to pay for a good read. Here are our picks for the best free Kindle books, so you don't have to sort through thousands of titles on Amazon and Google Play. We divided them into various genres, so dive in.

Huawei could announce a trio of new smartwatches at IFA in late August

The Huawei Watch 3 may be a ways off from release, but that doesn't mean Huawei isn't working on what it could look like. A new patent from Huawei hints at a smartwatch with space to store a pair of true wireless earbuds.

Apple aficionados, these cute pillows are made just for you

Created as "a cuddly tribute to the tech that changed our lives," these cute pillows will be hard to resist for diehard Apple fans. Each one features an iconic Apple product, including the first iMac and the game-changing iPod.