Google is making a handful of announcements related to RCS today, but the piece of news you’re most likely to notice is that the default SMS app Google offers is now called “Android Messages” instead of “Messenger.” Or rather, it will be the default RCS app. RCS, if you don’t recall, is the next-generation messaging standard supported by a group of carriers and Google. It offers multimedia messages, read receipts, and other features you’d expect from a normal chat app like WhatsApp or iMessage.
Amir Sarhangi, Head of RCS at Google, tells The Verge that the app is getting renamed because Android Messages is becoming more like Android itself: an industry effort spearheaded by Google, but with other stakeholders involved (namely: the carriers). the new name is also a signal to users that the app fully supports RCS. Users will be able to download the Android Messages app directly from the Play Store — which gives the added benefit that the app can be updated directly rather than make people wait for a software update from their manufacturer.
But “default messaging app” is a very fraught idea on Android, where Google is pursuing a three-fold app strategy that also includes Allo and Hangouts. In this context, what it really means is that a slew of Android manufacturers have agreed to use Android Messenger instead of a custom app made by the manufacturer. That list includes:
LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, Nokia, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony and Wiko, along with Pixel and Android One devices.
Along with the app update, Google has announced that a bunch of wireless carriers have agreed to adopt the “Universal Profile” for RCS, meaning their rich text messages are guaranteed to work when you send them. Some of them are using Google’s RCS service and others are just doing it themselves. The carriers on board with this messaging standard include: Sprint, Rogers, Telenor, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Globe, and Vodafone.