For the past year and a half, Google had been seeking to roll out its Rich Communication Services (RCS) for Android users worldwide. This plan finally arrived at the course of action on Thursday, when Google’s product lead Drew Rowny announced the release of Google messages all over the world (except China and Russia), across all android mobiles, to replace traditional SMS services. Not being bound by the limitations of carriers, it is said to be “next-gen texting” after regular SMS messaging. It can be used regardless of your phone carrier, the only condition is that the person you’re communicating with must also have the ‘Chats’ (RCS) feature turned on in the Google Messages App.
The RCS Chat Services is directly available through the Android Messaging App, to anyone who installs it and uses it as their default messaging app. Some people are even calling it “Android’s reply to Apple’s iMessage” that brings features like read receipts, typing indicators, and almost all other features that can be found in most modern messaging apps like Whatsapp.
Another important segment of Thursday’s announcement was that Google will also be rolling out end-to-end encryption in their RCS. Google product lead Drew Rowny explained, “End-to-end encryption ensures that no one, including Google and third parties, can read the content of your messages as they travel between your phone and the phone of the person you’re messaging.” This feature will be first rolled out to beta testers in a few day’s time. The beta testing period would assumingly last for at least a few months after which the encryption features would slowly roll out to non-users. This process could take anywhere from a few months to a whole year.
Google had earlier tried its hand at the end-to-end encryption messaging space back in 2016 with ‘Allo’, which attracted a lot of criticism from security specialists as it did not enable the security feature by default. This made Google shut down the project altogether. But now it seems that Google has learned from its mistake since the end-to-end encryption feature is turned on by default and doesn’t revert until the user loses or disables the RCS feature. Moreover, Google has also hinted at the possibility of end-to-end encrypted group chats through the RCS feature.
Despite all these leads, a few troubles may have found their way into Google’s latest development. First is the rising criticism from law enforcement against such encryption, which they believe may make it easier for lawbreakers to cover their tracks. Though digital rights protesters have since long vouched for strong encryption to allow users to avoid snooping by governments and cybercriminals, some governments have warned that the high-tech may hinder criminal investigations.
Talking about daily users, even after end-to-end encryption becomes active for all, users will still face inconvenience while communicating with people who use iPhones or any other messaging service as it is not very likely that RCS will be in congruence with cross-platform encryption services such as Whatsapp or Telegram. Additionally, many people are doubting that Google may be making the same mistake that it did with Google+, which was launched after Facebook had acquired a monopoly in the same space. Years later, now when Whatsapp has already become famous as the advanced and trendy messaging app, it may be difficult for Google to capture the audience.
Still, Google Messaging Service is great news for all, as it will bring about a whole lot of security to millions of Android users by replacing the clunky old SMS service. Expectantly, Google won’t make us wait long before leading everyone to a more secure and stable messaging space!