Verizon to default to RCS-enhanced Google Messages app on all Android phones

Joining AT&T and T-Mobile, Verizon will set Google's messaging app as the default on all Android phones starting next year.

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Google's homegrown Android messaging app just got another shot in the arm, courtesy of Verizon. On Tuesday, the wireless carrier announced it would set up the Messages by Google app as the default messaging software on all Android phones beginning in 2022. Verizon's move means that all three of the major U.S. carriers will default to Google's messaging app, virtually ensuring its adoption by a much wider audience of Android users.

SEE: Mobile device computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

The shift also means greater support for the Rich Communications Service, a standard used by Google's messaging app. Designed as a replacement for the more limited Short Messaging Service protocol, RCS is built for a more modern era.

Among some of the perks of RCS, you can send and receive high-resolution photos and videos, text via Wi-Fi or cellular, see when a message was read and secure your messages with true end-to-end encryption.

RCS offers certain advantages to businesses and consumers, as Verizon described in its announcement.

"Businesses will also be able to build and manage messaging to more effectively reach their customers," Verizon said. "RCS will allow Verizon Android users the option to easily connect with businesses to purchase products, make reservations, ask questions and more."

SEE: Electronic communication policy  (TechRepublic Premium)

This shift to RCS in the Android world leaves one key mobile player out of the loop, namely Apple. The iMessage app for iOS/iPadOS allows for read receipts, end-to-end encryption and other benefits, but only if you're texting another iPhone or iPad user. Send a text to an Android user, and the message is sent via SMS or MMS, which are limited compared with iMessage. You can see the difference between the two on an Apple device as iMessage texts appear in blue, while SMS/MMS messages are painted in green.

With RCS destined to become more of a standard, the ball is in Apple's court. Will the company stick with its uneasy reliance on iMessage and SMS or join Google in adopting RCS?

"The RCS standard has been building momentum across the globe with more than 444 million monthly active users in 60 countries, according to GSMA," Verizon said. "As networks continue to become interconnected, Android users in the U.S. will enjoy a better, more advanced messaging experience as they interact with each other and businesses on networks that support the RCS standard."

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By Lance Whitney

Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.