Google is bringing an upgraded SMS standard called Rich Communications Services (RCS) to Android next year and Sprint is its first carrier partner.
RCS will basically be the iMessage of Android, aiming to take SMS to the next level and allow for an improved text and multimedia message experience.
Teaming up with Google on the initiative, Sprint is ready to bring the more powerful RCS to its Android smartphones. The carrier is now rolling out RCS messaging to its Android customers, adding neat features such as high-resolution photo sharing, typing indicators, read receipts and better group chats to enhance the standard messaging experience.
Sprint users will see their standard SMS experience upgraded through the Google Messenger app for Android, with Google's Jibe RCS cloud powering the service.
Moreover, Sprint and Google aim to replace the default SMS with Messenger for Android in 2017. All Sprint Android smartphones that ship next year will come with Messenger preloaded as the default SMS and RCS messaging service.
Select Nexus and LG smartphones running on Sprint's network will get a software update to upgrade the messaging experience automatically, while other Android device owners can download Messenger from Google Play.
"We're excited to see this first launch of RCS come to life, providing a better carrier messaging experience for millions of people in the U.S.," says Google. "We look forward to launching RCS with more partners in the coming months."
RCS is an exciting upgrade to the current SMS testing standard, which hasn't really changed much in the past two decades. It will finally bring SMS on par with other messaging services that have become more common nowadays such as Facebook Messenger, Apple's iMessage, WhatsApp and others.
Apple's iMessage is so popular not just because it's the default messaging app on iPhones, but also because it seamlessly combines SMS with more advanced messaging features. RCS wants to offer a similar experience on Android, ditching he regular constraints of standard messaging.
For now, Android users on Sprint will be able to enjoy the new messaging experience only when they're exchanging messages with other Android users on Sprint, using the updated Google Messenger app. Otherwise, texting with users on other carriers or on non-Android devices will yield the same old SMS experience.
AT&T and T-Mobile have rolled out the RCS standard as well, but it's not compatible with Google Messenger just yet. Google aims to offer interoperability among carriers and eventually among different operating systems, but it's just getting started. With Sprint now on board, other carriers should soon join the party.