And another one's down. Following similar announcements for AT&T and T-Mobile, Verizon has announced that as of 2022, all its Android devices will come with Google Messages and RCS enabled by default. That gives Google the trifecta of major carriers in the US, at least as far as Android hardware is concerned.
For the uninitiated, RCS stands for "Rich Communication Services." It's a next-gen replacement for standard SMS texting, giving users access to features that are more like modern electronic messaging systems you're more familiar with on social networks. RCS includes better handling of web links and media, emoji, various APIs for tools like seeing if your message recipient is typing, basic VOIP abilities, et cetera. RCS is standardized so that different networks can both use it with customized software, and it's backwards compatible with the most basic elements of archaic texting.
Previously all of the major carriers had made announcements in support of RCS, but had intended to implement their own systems — in some cases, not fully meeting the required Universal Profile standards for interoperability and unconnected with other carriers. Verizon is still apparently handling its own RCS back-end regarding today's announcement, but the company is switching to Google Messages as the user-facing bit, and that's key, because Google will only accept the carrier implementation if it's fully Universal Profile compatible and interconnected. And if it isn't, Messages will just connect to Google's servers instead. So, no matter what, customers on Verizon should get the full RCS experience.
Between getting the majority of US users onboard with RCS and similar standards-compliant moves from carriers and phone manufacturers around the world, RCS is fast becoming the default for text messages. Or at least it would be, if it weren't for Apple's iMessage, which is entirely proprietary and doesn't conform to RCS technology (though it's also compatible with the old SMS system). It seems like we're reaching a familiar milestone: a duopoly of competing platforms between Apple and pretty much everyone else.