In November 2016, the RCS Universal Profile (Rich Communications Services) was introduced. The technology takes text messaging to the 21st century, emulating many of the features found in IM apps like WhatsApp and iMessage, but working through your phone number like regular SMS or MMS. The only thing is, your carrier needs to support RCS-UP to use the feature. Thankfully, the list is growing.
Another major hurdle with the adoption of RCS Universal Profile stems from the "Universal Profile" part. Before Google purchased Jibe and spearheaded the GSMA's standardization of a set of features that would be included with all RCS-UP compatible devices and carriers, RCS by itself had already existed for four years. That led to fragmentation as several carriers prematurely started implementing their proprietary versions of RCS, none of which were compatible with the others.
The Universal Profile looks to fix this fragmentation, but it's proving to be an uphill battle. We now have a single, agreed-upon set of standards to make deployment easier and connectivity between different carriers possible. However, many wireless carriers in the US (and around the world) have been slow to adopt these "Universal Profile" standards, thus limiting RCS-UP support. Because of how useful the technology is and the slow rollout, we decided to create this list to help you track the progress of the implementation for your wireless carrier and others.
Before we get to the carriers who natively support RCS-UP, we have some good news: Google bypased the carriers to introduce its Chat features for everyone in the US. So no matter your carrier, you'll be able to use RCS features by having all parties use Android Messages.
To try it out, here's what you and anyone else you want to message using RCS will need to do:
- Update Android Messages to v5.3.076 or higher
- Update Carrier Services to v32.0.283645144 or higher
- Open the Messages app, tap "Agree" on the "Messages just got better" prompt
- Wait up to 30 minutes for RCS features to be activated
You'll know it was successful if you go to "Chat features" inside the Messages app's settings and see a "Status: Connected" message at the top of the screen. If not, you may need to whitelist the following apps in your ad blocker: Messages, Carrier Services, and any other app with the word "Carrier" in its name.
Here we cover some of the big names in US cellular providers — Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint, US Cellular, and even Google Fi — that have already implemented RCS Universal Profile to some degree.
Currently, most Verizon phones support RCS messaging via their Verizon Messages (Message+) app, but this is not Universal Profile, so it only works with other Verizon devices. For enriched communication outside the Verizon network, the nation's largest carrier has only just started rolling out support for RCS Universal Profile. But there's a catch: RCS-UP is currently only available for the Pixel 3 and 3 XL on Verizon. Starting in the first quarter of 2019, Verizon plans to extend support for Universal Profile to all their Android-powered devices.
- Phones: Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL (more devices coming in Q1 2019)
T-Mobile also uses its RCS implementation via the feature Advanced Messaging, but again, this is not Universal Profile. As of June 2018, T-Mobile supports Universal Profile 1.0, which it's slowly rolling out to devices. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge were first in line.
With Universal Profile 1.0, users get some features such as larger file transfer and 100 participants group chats, but this is limited between T-Mobile subscribers. T-Mobile is working with Google to implement newer Universal Profile standards soon, but as of Nov. 2019, it hasn't implemented a global connection. T-Mobile also confirmed that the Google Pixel 4 and 4 XL won't have RCS at launch.
- Phones: Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S7 Metro-variance, S8, S8+, S8 Active, S8 Metro-variance, Note 8, Note 9, and OnePlus 6T
Sprint was the first US carrier to implement the RCS Universal Profile. It's running the latest Universal Profile, backed by the Jibe RCS cloud from Google. Since this is a true Universal Profile implementation, all Sprint Android-powered devices are able to use RCS messaging to communicate with both Sprint customers and those on other carriers around the world which support the feature. As of 2017, all new Android devices from Sprint will come preloaded with Android Messages to serve as a front-end for the feature.
- Phones: All Android devices officially released on Sprint
Similar to Sprint, US Cellular has implemented true RCS Universal Profile. It is running the latest Universal Profile too, and like Sprint, it is powered by the Jibe RCS cloud from Google, which means that all US Cellular Android devices can communicate within and outside of the network using RCS messaging as long as the recipient supports the feature. For US Cellular devices, subscribers need to use the preloaded Android Messages app or download the app from the Play Store.
- Phones: All Android devices officially released on US Cellular
After months of waiting, the MVNO owned by Google finally support RCS messaging. As expected, it is fully supported by all devices with variants on Google Fi (which happens to only be Android powered devices). It also supports compatible Android phones brought to the network such as phones created Samsung (such as the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9). You need to use the Android Messages app and supports communication between both Google Fi subscribers and other carriers which supports Universal Profile.
- Phones: All Google Fi phone variants and compatible Android devices brought to the network
In addition to postpaid wireless carriers, a number of prepaid carriers support RCS Universal Profile as well. Here is a list of carriers which fully support the feature:
- Boost Mobile
- Freedom Mobile
- NTT DoCoMo
- Straight Talk
- Telcel América
- Tiercel Wireless
- Total Wireless
- Virgin Mobile
While many of the big cellular providers in the US have implemented RCS messaging to some degree, there are a few holdouts.
AT&T is the only major US wireless carrier that has yet to implement the Universal Profile in any capacity. Instead, AT&T subscribers are stuck with their proprietary version known as AT&T Advanced Messaging. This version allows for some of the RCS features, but is limited to only a handful of devices (Samsung Galaxy S7, S9, S9+, and Note 9) and only works when all members are AT&T subscribers. AT&T is exploring interoperability with other carriers via Universal Profile, but no timeline has been announced as of this writing.
The service started by Google will also be supporting RCS messaging. Back in 2017 when the service received its first significant overhaul in years, a spokesperson from Google stated they are working to implement RCS Universal Profile. However, just like Google Fi, Google has been largely quiet about an actual timetable.
Outside of the US, several wireless carriers have already implemented the technology. Here is a list of the wireless providers that fully support both RCS Messaging and Universal Profile.
- América Móvil - Latin America
- Claro - Argentia, Brazil, Colmbia, Ecuador, Peru
- Deutsche Telekom - Germany
- Fido Solutions - Canada
- Freedom Mobile - Canada
- Globe Telecom - Philippines
- KDDI - Japan
- Magyar Telekom - Hungary
- NTT Docomo - Japan
- Oi - Latin America
- Orange - France, Romania
- Rogers Wireless - Canada
- SFR - France
- SoftBank Corp. - Japan
- Telcel - Mexico
- Telefónica - Spain
- Telia - Sweden
- Telstra - Australia
- Vodacom - South Africa
- Vodafone - Albania, Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom
Additionally, Google has worked with the UK and France's carriers to fully roll out RCS within each country. As long as you are using a Pixel device in those countries, you will be able to use RCS messaging via the Android messaging app.