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Google’s answer to iMessage has finally arrived for U.S. Android users, according to a new report.
The messaging service is called “Chat.” And it’s based on the internet-enabled Rich Communications Services (RCS) standard, which carries a number of benefits over the current (and objectively bad) SMS texting standard.
For Android users, those benefits are ones that have been available on iOS for years. They include read receipts, ellipsis typing indicators, higher-resolution images and videos, and the ability to send messages over Wi-Fi to save data. Like iMessage, users can also opt-out of the service if they want.
Chat first started rolling out in June, first arriving in the U.K, France and Mexico. Google started incrementally rolling out the feature to U.S. users last month. But as of Thursday, it should now be available to all Android users.
Google’s product management director, Sanaz Ahari, tweeted last week that users can get Chat by updating both the Android Messages app and Carrier Services.
Of course, there are a couple of caveats to the rollout, mostly because U.S. carriers have been dragging their feet on adopting RCS. (That’s likely the reason Google took matters into its own hands.)
For one, users will only be able to use Chat to communicate with people who use Samsung Messages or customers of Sprint and US Cellular.
Google has previously said that it’s willing to work with any carrier that adopts it, however. While that may be a while away, AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile announced a new initiative back in October to bring cross-carrier RCS to its customers.
As for whether or not Android users will be able to use Chat to text their iPhone-using friends, it’s not clear. iPhones don’t currently support RCS. And Apple has declined to comment on whether it plans to adopt the standard in the future.
There is still one area in which Apple’s iMessage standard is undoubtedly superior to RCS, however. Unlike iMessage, WhatsApp and other secure messaging platforms, Google’s Chat service is not end-to-end encrypted.
Technically, that means Google will still be able to see the messages that user send and could easily turn over their contents to law enforcement. That may be a concern for both privacy and security advocates.