Apple has had iMessage for several years. Unfortunately, due to the wide variety of Android phones and messaging apps, a similar feature on Android has taken time. Fortunately, RCS messaging is now available as an iMessage equivalent on Android. What exactly is RCS messaging on Android, and how do you use it? You’ll find the answer right here.
What Is RCS?
Rich communication services, aka RCS, is a set of standards or protocols between mobile operators, phone manufacturers, and software providers that provides a universal and advanced messaging experience across Android devices. RCS, which was founded in 2007, did not gain traction until it was acquired by Google, which began implementing RCS as Chat features in its own Messages app. The Messages app is now preinstalled on all three major carriers’ phones in the United States.
What Is RCS Messaging?
RCS messaging is an improved version of SMS/MMS that enables you to send messages over the Internet (mobile data or Wi-Fi). It provides advanced messaging services similar to WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, iMessage, and others.
As with the other chat apps, you can text in real time and see typing indicators and message receipts. RCS also unlocks the ability to send high-quality photos, videos, GIFs, stickers, location, and much more right from the default messaging app without using any third-party app.
RCS messaging capability is provided by your mobile carrier or Jibe Mobile from Google, with the latter being the most popular. RCS must also be supported by your messaging app. Google’s Messages app is the best RCS app right now because it supports all features and is featured in this guide. More messaging apps will be able to use RCS in the future.
Let’s look at a comparison of RCS and SMS to get a better understanding of RCS messaging.
What Are the Differences Between RCS and SMS?
Currently, a single SMS message can only be 160 characters long. Anything beyond that is regarded as a second message, and third, fourth, and fifth, etc., if needed, and you are charged accordingly. RCS messaging, thankfully, removes this restriction, allowing you to send messages of virtually any length.
You don’t need an Internet connection to send or receive SMS messages, whereas RCS messaging requires mobile data or Wi-Fi because everything is handled over the data network.
SMS/MMS messages are deducted from your mobile operator’s regular balance or your mobile plan. On the contrary, because RCS connects to the Internet, data charges will apply based on the type and quantity of data sent or received, just like WhatsApp and other chat apps. You do not need to be concerned about the charges if you have an unlimited Internet plan.
One of the most significant advantages of SMS is that it works on all types of devices. Whether it’s a traditional feature phone, an iPhone, or an Android phone. This level of interoperability is currently lacking in RCS messaging. It is only available for Android phones, and not all carriers and phones support it. Unless both the sender and the recipient have RCS messaging, it cannot be used.
RCS also adds the group chat feature to Android messages, which was previously unavailable in regular text messaging.
RCS messages can carry more information than traditional SMS or MMS messages. You can send high-quality photos, videos, location, stickers, and other similar items but can’t with SMS. RCS also provides read receipts, emoji reactions, and typing indicators.
How to Enable RCS Messaging on Android
Requirements for RCS
Before we begin, make sure your Android phone meets the following requirements:
- The Messages app from Google should be installed on your Android phone and set as the default SMS app. To make it the default app, go to “Settings → Apps → Default apps → SMS app.” Select the Messages app.
- Your Android phone should be running Android 5.0 and higher.
- The same SIM card should be used for data and calls if you have multiple SIM cards in your phone.
- You should have a regular balance in your mobile, as RCS messaging may need to verify your phone number by sending an SMS.
Activate RCS Messaging
Once your phone meets the above requirements, you can activate RCS messaging, provided it’s supported by your country and carrier.
- Open the Messages app by Google. Tap on the three-dot icon and go to “Settings.”
- Tap on “Chat features.” If RCS is available on your phone, you will see the option to enable the feature. Turn on the toggle next to “Enable chat features’ to activate RCS messaging. If RCS messaging or chat features aren’t available for your phone, you will not see the option to enable it.
- Follow the on-screen instructions to set up RCS messaging. Once RCS is enabled, you will see “Connected” next to “Status.”
Tips for Using RCS Messaging
Now that you know what RCS is and how to set it up, let’s explore various RCS messaging tips to enhance your experience.
1. Find Out Whether Your Message Will Be Sent as RCS or SMS
One of the major concerns while using RCS messaging is to figure out whether the recipient has RCS. You can check that in the field where you would type your message.
- If it says “Chat messages,” the messages will be sent using RCS.
- If it says “Text messages,” RCS isn’t active, so messages will be sent as SMS/MMS.
Further, the Send icon next to that field also helps in identifying the type of message that will be sent.
- If the Send icon doesn’t show any text, it means the message will be sent as RCS over Wi-Fi or mobile data.
- If the icon says SMS or MMS, messages will be sent as SMS or MMS respectively.
- The Lock icon on the Send icon indicates that the message is end-to-end encrypted.
2. Identify RCS Messages in Chat
RCS messages are slightly darker in color than SMS/MMS messages. On both sent and received messages, you will notice a darker blue color.
Alternatively, hold down a message and tap the three-dot icon, then select “View details”. The resulting pop-up will indicate whether the message is RCS or regular SMS.
3. React with Emojis
Touch and hold on any message that you want to react to with emojis. The emoji bar will open. Choose the desired emoji. To change the emoji, touch and hold the message, and choose a different emoji. To remove an emoji, press the same emoji again. Please note that the other person will be notified about any changes made to emoji reactions.
4. Enable or Disable Read Receipts
You can disable read receipts if you don’t want others to know you’ve read their messages. Navigate to “the Messages app settings → Chat features.” Turn off the toggle next to “Send read receipts.”
5. Turn the Typing Indicator On or Off
When you use RCS in the Messages app, you will see typing indicators by default. If you don’t want others to see when you’re typing, you can turn it off. Navigate to “Chat features” in the Messages app settings. Deactivate the toggle next to “Show typing indicators.”
6. Turn Off Auto Download Files
Files up to 100 MB are automatically downloaded in the Messages app by default. However, you can change this by either completely disabling auto-download or changing the file size limit. To do so, navigate to “Settings → Chat features → Auto-download files you receive over mobile data” in the Messages app. Select the appropriate option.
7. Send Voice Messages
RCS messaging allows you to send voice messages. Touch and hold the microphone icon next to the typing area to start recording your voice message. Lift your finger to preview the recording, then hit the Send button.
8. Send Images
It should come as no surprise that you can send images while using Chat in Android Messages. To open the Camera view or select an image from your Gallery, press the Gallery icon on the left side of the message compose box. Tap the Send button after selecting the photo you want to send.
9. Doodle or Write on Images
Once you select the image as shown in the above tip, it’s added to the message compose box. Tap on the image thumbnail in the compose box to edit it and press the “Edit” button.
Tap on the A icon to add text on the image or hit the Doodle icon to draw on the picture. Hit the Send button.
Tip: you can use the Messages app as a photo editor. Press the Download button at the bottom of the image to save it on your device after editing it.
10. Send GIFs and Stickers
To access the GIF and Sticker sections, click the plus (+) icon in the typing area. Tap a GIF category to view and send GIFs from that category or use the GIF search to find the required GIF. Similarly, you can send a sticker by tapping on it. Alternatively, on the left side, tap the GIF or Sticker buttons to open them in full screen mode.
11. Send Location
With chat features in the Android Messages app, you can share your location as well. You can send your current location or use the search feature to find a location. To use this feature, tap on the add (+) icon and hit the location tab. Select the location to share.
12. Use Assistant Features
The Messages app will make auto suggestions based on the text you’re typing while you’re chatting. It is possible with the help of Google Assistant. You can also use Assistant features manually within the Messages app. Tap the (+) icon and select the Assistant section’s buttons such as Restaurants, Movies, and so on. Also, learn how to send and read messages using Google Assistant.
13. Share Contact and Files
Similarly, you can share contacts and files in the Messages app. Tap on the respective buttons inside the add (+) icon and choose the data you want to send.
14. Create Group Chats
To create a group chat, press the floating Start chat button on the app’s home screen, then tap on “Create group” and add the people. Alternatively, open any existing chat thread, press the three-dot icon and select “Details.” Tap on “Add people.”
How to Turn Off RCS Messaging
Disable RCS for Individual Contacts
The Messages app lets you disable chat features for specific contacts. All messages to that contact will be delivered via SMS or MMS. To do so, open the chat thread, then tap the three-dot icon and select “Details.” Enable the “Only send SMS and MMS messages” toggle.
Disable RCS for All Contacts
If you don’t enjoy RCS messaging or chat features, you can disable it. To do so, go to “the Messages app settings → Chat features.” Turn off the toggle next to “Enable chat features.”
Generally, the chat feature will also stop working when you remove the SIM card from your phone. However, it may continue to work on the same device for up to 14 days after removing the SIM.
Deactivate RCS without Phone
If you bought a new device and forgot to turn off chat features on the old phone, you can deactivate it from Google’s deactivation web portal as well. Enter your number and the security code in the portal to disable RCS, then activate it on the new phone.
What to Do If RCS Doesn’t Work
If RCS isn’t working, make sure it meets the above-mentioned requirements, such as a working Internet connection, Android version, default messaging app, and so on. After that, restart the phone and re-insert the SIM card. If that doesn’t work, reactivate RCS by first disabling it and then enabling it again.
Make the Most of Android Messages
Once RCS becomes mainstream, like iMessage or WhatsApp, businesses can explore its capabilities to send important information. Boarding passes, parcel tracking, and customer service are some examples. If you want to know more of what you can do with RCS now, see our other tips related to the Messages app and how to use it on the Web.