Android Messaging Now Uses RCS Encryption By Default, Why This Matters

google messages RCS
Google has implemented a big security upgrade for Android users, and for once, you don't have to wait for a theoretical OS update to enjoy it. The Google Messages app now enables end-to-end encryption for all RCS chats by default, and that even applies to group chats. You can disable RCS if you want, but why would you?

Google's messaging journey has been so circuitous and ham-fisted that it's often used to lampoon the company. For a while, Google couldn't even go a year without upending its messaging ecosystem, running through apps like Talk, Hangouts, Spaces, Allo, and on and on. Now, Google finally seems to have settled on RCS (Rich Communication Services), which is intended as a replacement for SMS. Google initially tried to brand this as "Chat," but it's since given up on that fantasy.

Google sidestepped carriers a few years back, which were working toward proprietary and incompatible RCS implementations. So now, everyone who uses the Google Messages app (pre-loaded on many Android phones) will get RCS messaging, which improves upon SMS with longer messages, read receipts, high-resolution photos, and much more. It also supports end-to-end encryption (E2EE), which ensures that only you and the recipient can read the content of your messages. Previously, you had to enable E2EE. Now, Google is doing it for all new and existing RCS users.

RCS toggle

This only applies to those using Google Messages on Android. So, anyone still texting with a different OEM app, like Samsung Messages, will be at the mercy of the developer when it comes to privacy. RCS relies on your phone number to route messages, and everything goes through a remote server. So, unencrypted messages can be read by anyone who intercepts them or has access to that server.

If you don't want any part of Google's more secure messaging service, you can disable it all in the Messages settings. Under "RCS Chats," there's a toggle to disable RCS and return to traditional SMS messages. If you choose to re-enable RCS later, it might take a little bit to connect. Don't worry—that's normal.