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Android is finally getting a worthy iMessage rival – but there’s a huge catch

Google is finally bringing its answer to iMessage to directly to Android users after losing patience with mobile carriers to roll out the Rich Communications Services standard.

The replacement for SMS and MMS messaging services, which will enable users to share higher quality photos, see when their contacts are typing and more, will reportedly roll out in the UK and France this month.

The Verge reports the company will bring the RSC to more markets as the year goes on, before making it available to all Android users. Initially the standard, which includes read receipts, will be opt-in with users given a choice.

Bypassing the carriers altogether gives Google the opportunity to bring the feature straight to all Android users directly, rather than continue to wait for the roll out.

Related: Best Android smartphones 2019

However, it’s not all good news. RCS doesn’t benefit from the same end-to-end encryption enjoyed by iMessage, WhatsApp and Signal users, for example. The company does say it is working on bringing private messaging functionality to the RCS standard.

Sanaz Ahari, who is the product management director for Android messages, said: “We fundamentally believe that communication, especially messaging, is highly personal and users have a right to privacy for their communications. And we’re fully committed to finding a solution for our users.”

Google also says it won’t be storing the information or any metadata on its servers only for the time necessary to bring the message to its recipients.

The roll out is just the latest effort to master messages. The company’s Google Talk efforts became Hangouts, then there was Google Messenger, Duo and Allo. Hopefully, when the RCS solution rolls out, Android users will have a little more clarity over messaging moving forward. That’s if they’re not already using WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.

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