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Disabling RCS on Android

by Brent Stewart on Monday, Mar 28, 2022

Disabling Chat

Google’s move to RCS/Chat

You really shouldn’t care about Google’s supported messaging app. They certainly don’t. They change ideas about messaging more often then their underwear. Still, they’ve made a move from SMS to RCS recently and they’re taking you along with them.

SMS is about thirty years old. It allows 160 character messages and has features built in to support carrier billing. Despite it’s limitations, it’s become the default way to communicate for a certain portion of the population and a part of nearly everyone’s life.

Apple has led the way in showing the limitations of SMS with their chat app. SMS is run by the carriers, who have seen it as a cash-cow and not an area for innovation. Apple didn’t try to shoe-horn their offering onto SMS, they built a whole new IP-based application. Apple added in features like end-to-end encryption for privacy, read receipts, activity indicators, and high-res photos.

Google has recently been shamed for the poor state of messaging on Android and as a result has tried to create an alternative to iMessage around RCS. Google’s take on RCS is called Chat, and there’s a protocol built out to support the new service. Chat takes up many of the improvements that iMessage (and others) have brought to messaging - things like read receipts, activity indicators, and integration with video. It doesn’t include support for end-to-end encryption. I’ve heard this is in development, but I’m suspecious that the carriers are loath to give up access to the data.

Should you care?


No. As mentioned, if this effort fails it will become the new cherry on the pile of failed messaging apps from Google. If it succeeds, it will work like Slack/iMessage/etc and you won’t really think about it.

I have a bit of a unique case. My personal phone is an S9 and I have a seperate work phone. My personal carrier, T-Mobile, has a DGITS app that carries your T-Mobile phone number to another device via IP. So I have the DIGITS app on my work phone and only have to carry one phone. DIGITS supports voice and text - SMS texts. I leave my personal phone turned on at my desk at home.

Disabling Chat

I’ve been missing texts in DIGITS that come to the old phone. It didn’t make sense until I spoke to a close friend (Hi Mike!) and he mentioned RCS and speculated that since I was missing his texts maybe my app didn’t support it. He tested by turning off RCS when communicating with me.

So this leads to my current theory: when users message my personal number, my home phone negotiates chat and receives the message, leaving my DIGITS app out of the loop. I’ve resolved this by going into my personal phone and turning off “chat” and forcing it to use SMS.

To do this, open the (Google) messages app and choose the three vertical dots to find the settings. Under settings, choose chat features. That brings you to the options shown on the left. The first option - Enable chat features - is the one that disables the chat protocol.

This is a solution for folks that have two places to receive texts, which is a small group. It’s not a bad tradeoff. I don’t really care about longer bodies of texts or the little blinking activity indication. If Chat supported end-to-end encryption I might reconsider and hopefully DIGITS will support chat before I have to make that choice.


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