Verizon is launching RCS Chat on the Pixel 3 on December 6th

Verizon has confirmed to The Verge that it will be launching RCS Chat on the Pixel 3 and 3 XL on December 6th. Only those two phones on Verizon will have the feature, but the company tells me that it is “committed to bringing advanced messaging to other Verizon smartphones in the future.” In other words, the rollout for Chat on Verizon will probably be a little slow, but it’s still earlier than we were expecting. A few weeks ago, A Verizon executive indicated that support for Chat would come in “early 2019.”

RCS is the text-messaging standard set to replace SMS for Android phones — it supports features that you would expect from any text-messaging client, including typing indicators, high-resolution images and video, and better group chat. Unfortunately, it does not have another features that you’d want in a text-messaging client: end-to-end encryption for privacy.

RCS is also Google’s central strategy for offering a better messaging to Android users, in effect replacing Hangouts, its predecessors, and Allo. All of those text messaging apps (and the ones that came before them) had promising starts yet failed for reasons too numerous to get into here — but you can read all about the history if you like. Bottom line, Google is not trying to compete directly with the likes of iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger with its own app anymore. Instead, there’s Chat.

Verizon’s implementation of RCS Chat will be compatible with other carriers when they begin to roll it out as it’s based on the “Universal Profile.” Unfortunately, that support is starting to feel a little slow in coming. Google’s own cell phone service — Google Fi — doesn’t support it yet. Other carriers have implemented their own proprietary versions of RCS and have promised to update to the Universal Profile.

Here’s Verizon’s statement:

Verizon and Google will be rolling out enhanced messaging (RCS) in the Messages app on Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL beginning this Thursday, December 6th. 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.

News of RCS coming to the Pixel 3 first showed up on Reddit, with what appears to be a training document for Verizon reps that states “Chat features only work if all members of a group chat have Chat features enabled. If any members are not enabled, the standard SMS/MMS service is the default.” Fortunately, it appears that Chat will work in the default Android Messages app, so you won’t have to use Verizon’s custom Messages+ texting app.

Bottom line: the Pixel 3 will support RCS soon, but whether or not you’ll actually be able to take advantage of the new features will depend on who you’re texting. Most important in the US, there have only been the vaguest of rumors that Apple is even considering supporting RCS on the iPhone.