RCS has been a long time coming, but the last few carrier holdouts in the US are finally starting to push out support for the "enhanced messaging" standard. Earlier this year, T-Mobile rolled the feature out to the Galaxy S7, then the S8, and now Verizon is joining in on the fun a bit earlier than originally expected, pushing out RCS support to Google's latest Pixel 3 and 3 XL starting this morning.
We reached out to Verizon to confirm that RCS would be landing on the latest generation of Pixels today, and received the following statement:
Verizon and Google began rolling out enhanced messaging (RCS) in the Messages app on Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL starting this morning. This messaging service brings for example typing indicators, very large group chats and the ability to transfer large files between the owners of these smartphones.
When a user's device receives the capability they'll be notified in the Messages app and will be able to opt out if they'd like.
The Verge was told that other phones on the carrier's network would be receiving RCS/Chat in the future. As of now, there's no word as to when or whether the feature will be coming to the 2016 Pixels or Pixel 2s.
Interoperability is a bit of a concern when it comes to RCS — every carrier thinks its proprietary, compatibility-breaking changes onto the core standard are a legitimate value-add, when they legitimately aren't. But Verizon's version is expected to be based on and compatible with the actual Universal Profile 1.0 standard. Tests performed by volunteers at the /r/UniversalProfile subreddit confirm full interoperability is working between Verizon, US Cellular, and Sprint, as well as some dependent MVNOs — a bit of a surprise.
According to the details posted over on Reddit, Verizon's implementation of RCS/Chat on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL will allow for messages up to 8,000 characters long (up from 160 in SMS), as well as modern instant messaging conveniences like typing indicators, read receipts, larger group support, and a bump in shared media quality. Messages can also be sent over Wi-Fi, without a cellular connection being required, though everyone participating in a given conversation will need RCS/Chat support to get those features. Otherwise, Verizon falls back to SMS/MMS.
Verizon was one of the last holdouts for RCS support (the Universal Profile subreddit has an authoritative spreadsheet of carrier support here). Now all that's missing is a full rollout on T-Mobile, Google Fi support, and for AT&T to give up its proprietary bullshit in favor of more consumer-friendly, open standards.
Volunteers at the Universal Profile subreddit have confirmed in their own testing that RCS is working between Verizon, US Cellular, and Sprint subscribers, as well as some MVNOs based on the service. We've updated and corrected our coverage to include this information.