T-Mobile has started rolling out support for the RCS Universal profile — a new messaging standard that’s supposed to make traditional texting look a bit more like chatting in a modern messaging app, complete with read receipts, typing indicators, and more.
The rollout, spotted by Android Police, is starting with Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge and is supposed to come to more Android devices later in the year. There are a million qualifiers here around how and when everyone will really get to use this, but this is still an important step toward improving the basic texting experience on Android.
RCS messaging has been supported between T-Mobile customers for three years now, but it isn’t until now that T-Mobile has adopted “Universal” RCS. Universal RCS, if all goes according to plan, will allow for RCS messaging between supported phones on all major carriers, rather than just within the same carrier.
T-Mobile says that every Android device it sells supports RCS, so in theory, many recent T-Mobile devices will get updates to support it. And one would imagine that eventually all new Android phones will support it out of the box.
But like I said, lots of qualifiers. Right now, the only other major carrier supporting Universal RCS is Sprint. So it’s only T-Mobile and Sprint customers — who have supported phones — who can use RCS messaging together. Those customers also have to use the correct texting app (the default one built into their phone) in order to take advantage of the new features. Oh, and the iPhone doesn’t support RCS yet (if it ever does), so this is likely going to be just between Android phones for a while.
T-Mobile had said that it would start rolling out Universal RCS this quarter, and it’s really just sneaking in there in the final days. It’s not clear how quickly the rollout will continue, or to how many additional phones the rollout will reach.
“We’re planning to enable RCS Universal Profile 1.0 with a software update for more Android devices this year,” a T-Mobile spokesperson said in an email to The Verge. “Customers with RCS Universal Profile 1.0 will see the new features in the native messaging app on their device.”
The big question, though, is when Verizon and AT&T will activate Universal RCS. Both have agreed to support the standard, but neither has given a timeline on the rollout. And that means about that even people who are able to use RCS won’t get the benefits when chatting with about two-thirds of wireless customers in the US.
Google has recently gotten behind RCS in a big way, and the company seems to believe that much broader support should start to happen over 2018 and into 2019. “By the end of this year, we’ll be in a really great state, and by mid-next year, we’ll be in a place where a large percentage of users [will have] this experience,” Anil Sabharwal, who’s leading Google’s RCS push, told The Verge earlier this year.
We’ll very much still have to see. But today’s news shows that there’s at least some movement amid Google’s big RCS push. There’s just still a very long way to go.