Google has been the driving force behind RCS adoption for the past two years, so it has always been confusing that the company’s own MVNO network didn’t support the technology. That has finally changed, as Google Fi (formerly Project Fi) is now rolling out RCS, along with improved international coverage.
To take advantage of RCS, you’ll need to set Android Messages as the default SMS app on your phone. If you’re still using the optional Hangouts integration, you will have to turn it off. Once everything is set up, you’ll get typing indicators, read receipts, support for high-resolution videos, and the ability to message over Wi-Fi.
Of course, all of this only works with others who have an Android phone on a carrier that also supports RCS Universal Profile. In the United States, that is mostly limited to phones on Google Fi, U.S. Cellular, Sprint. T-Mobile supports RCS on a handful of phones, but its hub isn’t connected to Google’s yet, and Verizon has RCS on the Pixel 3.
In addition to the new RCS functionality, Fi’s international coverage is better than ever. “Faster 4G LTE” coverage is rolling out in 33 countries, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Greece, and Italy. It’s not clear if LTE was unavailable in these countries before, or data speeds will be higher than before.
It’s great to finally see Google Fi add support for RCS, even if the United States’ major carriers are still in the early stages of doing the same. Combined with support for all GSM devices and improved international coverage, Fi is a better deal than ever.