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If you’ve got an Android device, you now have Google Chat, now the full rollout is being completed. Jason Cipriani shared his thoughts on upping your text-messaging game in his latest article for cnet.

Upgrade your texting output with the new Messages app from Google.

You might have noticed that your Android phone can’t hold a candle to the far superior iMessage on the Apple iPhone; the features just weren’t up to par. Google knew they had a problem and their answer is a new text messaging protocol called RCS Messaging. Sanaz Ahari Lemelson, a senior director of product management at Google confirmed in a tweet that every Android user across the US has now been upgraded to the new system.

You’re going to want to switch over to Google Messages now, rather than your manufacturer’s default messaging app.

Bringing all the things people love about iMessage, the new RCS Messaging systems means you can now send photos at full resolution and you get the little “typing” bubble so you know when you’re getting a reply. The rollout pace is timed for slow and steady but with year-end approaching, so should full coverage. 

This isn’t the first attempt by Google to get their messaging services right, but they’ve never quite caught up with iMessage. With the new RSC Messaging software hardcoded into Android text messaging, Google might finally be on to something that challenges Apple’s dominance. The name might not be as catchy as iMessage – try saying RCS Messaging three times fast – so Google has chosen to go for the moniker “Chat” inside the system. 

Now, we’ll get into the details like how to activate the new feature and some of the deeper dive stuff about RCS Messaging

Start Up Google’s Chat feature

To get yourself started, you need to be using an Android device, have the Google Messages app installed and set it up as your default app for texting. This should be easy enough; when you open Messages for the first time it’ll prompt you to do this. Your phone will go through the steps with you, and migrate all of your old chats into the new app.  

RCS Messaging might not be with you immediately, Google are going for a one percent at a time timeframe, but you’ll still be able to use Messages for Web. This app lets you use your computer for sending SMSs too, so you might as well get the switch done now to take advantage of this. 

Currently, RCS Messages are going to work across the US, UK, Mexico, and France, once the glacially paced rollout is completed. The fast-approaching new year in the target set by Google to get all US users on board. 

You’ll get prompted to see if you want to see your friends when they type, but you get so much more included in the upgrade

Jason Cipriani/CNET

Get Things Turned On

To get chat enabled once installed and set as your default messaging app, you can go down one of two routes. The easy way is to wait for the app to prompt you to make the change, it’ll ask if you want to start being able to see when your friends are typing. If you’re the impatient sort, head to the settings menu and find the switch that will turn on Chat. 

Upgrade Now is the option you want to go for when prompted, and you might need to enter your phone number, too. The click path to do this independently is the three-dot menu in the top right of the app > Settings > Chat Features. Can’t find Chat Features? You’ve not been upgraded to RCS just yet. 

In the settings page, you can also control your read receipts and toggle the typing indicator, as well as decide what you want the app to do when a message fails to send. 

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Customize Settings to Get the Best of Chat

Another handy tool you now get is the option to see your current connection status to the Chat service through the settings, useful to troubleshoot why you might not be able to send messages. If you can see it displaying Connected, then your number is registered on Chat and it’ll be used by default when you and your conversation partner are both Chat enabled.

To make the features work, this element is really key – the users at both ends of the conversation need to have Chat enabled. It’s not the end of the line if they don’t, you’ll still be able to use the classic SMS systems. 

To get things started you need to talk with your buddies and get them to start using Google Messages too. If you’re the tech-savvy one, and we guess you are because you’re here reading this, you can send them this article or talk them through how to make the switch. 

Using the Chat Features

Once you’re all set up with the new Chat features, things won’t fundamentally change. Messages will still look and function the same, the big difference is that the app detects when you’re talking to a contact with Chat turned on or not. 

To tell the difference between your new chats and old-style ones, you need to check out the text box before you actually start tapping away. If you see “Chat message” in the box then you’re going to get the typing indicator, read receipts, and all the other cool stuff that RCS Messages enables.

Knowing when you’re using Chat or sending a conventional text is pretty simple. 

Each message will get a delivered and then read receipt under it, and you can send photos in full resolution once you’ve got Chat up and running between you and your friends. For sending images, you don’t need to do anything more than before; you just tap on your photo icon and choose the pic or video you want to send over. There’ll be a loading circle as it uploads and sends the image, but other than that it’s just the same as sending a normal text message.  

The new features run over mobile data or your WiFi connection, so if you need to go into airplane mode you don’t need to cut short your conversation with fellow Chat users. 

The Messages app mostly looks the same. Screenshot by Jason Cipriani/CNET

Be Careful With New Phones

Make sure that if you’re switching handsets you go out of your way to switch off chat before taking out the SIM card. If you don’t remember to do this, Chat features on your old handset can persist for up to eight more days, so you won’t get your messages through to your new handset even when you use the same number.

Encryption Isn’t Here Yet

Unlike most messaging app competitors, Google haven’t got encryption turned on for your Chat conversation with other users. Messages go from your phone, through a secure connection to Google’s servers, and then transferred to the recipient, and then deleted immediately from the servers. There’s not end-to-end encryption in place throughout this process. 

For the security conscious, WhatsApp and Signal, or Apple’s iMessage all offer end to end encryption for their messaging conversations.

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