Google has just announced that the Google Messages app, which is the default text messaging service on lots of the best Android phones, is now fully encrypted. Or at least it is when you’re texting via RCS, and that pushes the service one step closer to being the official Android equivalent to Apple’s iMessage.
The best part is that RCS will now be enabled by default for all new and existing Google Messages users. So this boost in security requires absolutely no additional effort on your part. You can turn off RCS messaging in settings if you really want to, but there are few benefits to doing that.
RCS is the closest thing non-Apple phones have to Apple’s iMessage pre-installed on their phones. The idea being that you’re sending messages over the internet, rather than the traditional cell signal, which gives you a bunch of extra options. Like the ability to send images, videos, files and all the other things that SMS and MMS either can’t do, or only do half-heartedly.
It also means your messages can be end-to-end encrypted, protecting the contents from any prying eyes — be it Google, your carrier, governments or more run-of-the-mill bad actors. SMS doesn’t support any of that, and whatever you send is exposed to anyone that knows how to intercept it.
Google has also announced that group chats are now encrypted by default as well, which means the contents of those conversations are firmly between you and the other members.
It’s worth remembering that there are a lot of phones out there that still don’t support RCS, and Google Messages will default to SMS when you’re texting them. iPhones are the most prominent example, with Apple straight-up refusing to adopt RCS — despite the benefits it could have in letting Android and iPhone users communicate. However, when asked about such situations, Apple CEO Tim Cook’s response was to buy an iPhone.
iPhones aren’t the only devices that don’t support RCS, but they are the most numerous. So if you want to talk to those people securely you’ll need to use a third-party service like WhatsApp or one of the best encrypted messaging apps.
But if you’re talking to other Android phones via Google Messages, you can now be safe in the knowledge that your messages are as secure as they can be.