- AT&T is making Google Messages the default chat app for all its Android phones.
- The move could help boost RCS messaging in the US.
The move will give many AT&T users Wi-Fi messaging, higher-quality media attachments, typing indicators, drop-in-drop-out group chats, and end-to-end encryption for one-on-one messages (once it rolls out to more users).
The AT&T move comes roughly three months after T-Mobile made Messages the default app for its Android customers. Verizon (disclaimer: this author writes for Verizon’s Engadget) is the only major US carrier left that hasn’t set Messages as the standard app on Google-powered devices.
Read more: The best chat and messenger apps for Android
This shift won’t have a noticeable effect until more AT&T customers buy new phones with Messages set as the default. Still, it could significantly improve adoption for RCS technology that so far hasn’t lived up to its (unofficial) billings as a sequel to SMS and Android’s iMessage alternative. The need for carrier-by-carrier adoption, a lack of iPhone support, and inconsistent implementation have all limited uptake. You’re more likely to use Facebook Messenger than RCS.
It might also have arrived just in time. AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon recently dropped an initiative meant to enable cross-carrier RCS messaging. While the networks all said they were still committed to supporting the technology, they didn’t say how they’d support the format. The AT&T maneuver might explain how — the carriers appear to be relying on Google Messages as the ‘glue’ that gets Android users on the same page.