With last year’s announcement of the “Chat” initiative, it became clear that Google would be working to make RCS the best possible messaging product for everyone. Staying true to that commitment, it seems Android Q may bring RCS capabilities to third-party apps with new system APIs.
Android Messages is a solid application that has a lot of plus sides, including web support and Chrome OS integration, but one of the core benefits of Android is choice. If you don’t like your messaging app, you can simply download a new one from the Play Store. At the moment though, Android Messages is one of very few apps that can work with RCS.
This is because in order to develop a messaging app (or any app for that matter), Google had to make the corresponding Android APIs available for developer use. Right now, the apps with RCS support today most likely work directly with RCS technology.
Signs in Android’s Gerrit source code management point to Android offering new APIs for developers to create RCS applications of their own. A new commit points to a wide variety of RCS-related APIs being made available to third-party developers, to allow apps to manage the RCS messages on a device.
Digging into the code, each new API is tagged with a “TODO” to make it public, or available to developers. Unfortunately, all of the APIs are currently in “skeleton” form, that is, just enough to show the structure. This means we can’t really be sure, at this point, exactly how developers would use Android’s RCS APIs when they arrive.
In comments on a related code change, one developer indicates that he is also implementing an RCS-related API that will be “in Q.” This is a clue that we will likely see more RCS support in Android Q. Considering Android Q is still quite a few months away, it’s possible the other RCS changes will make their way into this year’s version of Android before it releases.
Choice is always a good thing. I doubt anybody wants to be locked in to using their carrier’s designated messaging app to be able to use RCS. If RCS is going to eventually overtake SMS, then it needs to be as easy as possible to use, both for users and developers.
Dylan contributed to this article