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(Pocket-lint) - Google is finally rolling out RCS chat to its Google Fi network, but only for compatible Android phones.

RCS chat is the next-generation replacement for SMS messaging. You can read all about it from here. Google has been pushing for carriers to adopt it for a while now, which is why it's so surprising for Google to take this long to support the initiative on its own network. While Google Fi isn’t widely used, it’s hoped this will spur other wireless networks to adopt RCS chat.

Verizon, Sprint, and Google currently offer limited support for RCS chat, with a wider rollout expected later this year. Verizon, for example, currently offers RCS on all its phones through the Message+ app, but it only works when messaging another person on a Verizon device. The Google Pixel 3 devices are the only Verizon devices that offer RCS chat through any messaging app.

RCS functions just like chats do now. The biggest advantage over SMS - and the reason it will be implemented in the first place - is users can send rich, verified messages. Unfortunately, any messages sent still won’t be end-to-end encrypted, so, if privacy is your main concern, RCS won’t be your answer. Either way, RCS chat will be available for Google Fi users starting now.

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In conjunction with the RCS chat announcement, Google also announced that Google Fi users will be getting improved speeds to devices. It is rolling out 4G LTE speeds to 33 of the 200 countries - including the UK - it covers over the next few weeks. Google Fi users don’t incur any extra charges while roaming, and that will stay the same with the new and improved speeds. 

For more about how Fi works, see Pocket-lint's guide here.

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Originally published on 15 January 2019.