Just yesterday, Google made good on a promise from about a month ago when they announced that RCS Chat (the data-driven replacement for SMS text messages) would finally begin arriving on Android phones with or without carrier involvement. While I’m not sure exactly how this is happening, it seems the switch has been flipped and many users are seeing the Android Messages app receiving an update to enable RCS Chat and it only takes a few things to make it work.
If you’ve not yet seen the RCS Chat notification, you can check to see if you are actively using the new protocol by opening the Messages app, clicking the 3-dot menu button, settings, then Chat features. At the top of the next screen, you should see the words ‘Status: Connected’ if RCS is active. If not, there are a few things to do.
First, update Android messages to the latest version 5.2.062. Once you are sure this is done, fully close the app down. Now head over to the Play Store, hit the hamburger menu and select ‘My apps & games’ from the fly-out menu. Select the ‘Installed’ tab and scroll down until you see the Carrier Services app. Click on that app and update if necessary. It should be updated to 32.0.28xxxxx and last changed on December 5th 2019.
Once you have both updated, re-open your Android Messages app and re-check the setting we discussed above for RCS Chat. If you see it connected, you’re good to go and you can expect the app to give you a splash screen welcome at some point in the next day or two. Mine was active all day yesterday and I just saw the splash screen this morning.
On The Chromebook
Now that you have RCS Chat up and running, you basically have a full-featured instant messenger in place of the crusty old SMS you used to use. This means real-time typing notifications, enhanced media sharing (videos and GIFs won’t look like junk any longer) and proper group messaging. I’ve been using it since yesterday and its been quite enjoyable, honestly.
The best part is this all works on the Chromebook version, too. Once you have RCS Chat going on your phone, your connected Chromebook gets to take full advantage of all the newness as well. It makes the entire messaging experience on my phone and Chromebook feel seamless and fun to use.
If you’ve never set up Messages on a Chromebook, it is dead-simple. Just go to your phone, hit that same 3-dot menu and select ‘Messages for web.’ You’ll be taken to a screen that will instruct you to go to https://messages.google.com/web on your device. Head there and you will see a QR code that your phone can scan after you click the blue button on the phone’s screen. Just like that, Messages will be available in a PWA on your Chromebook.
Alternatively (and more recommended), you can link your phone and Chromebook together by going to your Chromebook settings and heading to the ‘Connected devices’ in the left-hand sidebar. Click the button to start your set up and in just a few steps, you’ll have your phone connected to your Chromebook. This connection comes along with instant wireless tethering for data and the ability to use Smart Lock as well.
I can’t overstate how much more usable and exciting this makes using Messages on a Chromebook. Not having to worry about GIFs being too big or videos getting compressed down to mushy garbage makes me actually want to start using Messages more often. Oh, and we can’t forget the ability to get out of group texts. That may be the best part of all of this.
As more and more Android users begin getting these updates (they’ll happen eventually for everyone), we’ll finally all have a messaging platform that is built into our phones that the majority will start using by default. Whether or not Apple decides to do the right thing and simply include the RCS Chat protocol into iMessage becomes the next phase, but I’m very happy with what is happening so far.