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This hack lets you try out the future of text messaging on any Android phone

RCS messaging
(Image credit: Google; Future)

Good old SMS messaging is destined to be replaced by RCS (rich communication service), and now there's a way to get a preview of the future of messaging on any Android phone.

Google has been pushing for carriers to switch to RCS for some time, and has begun rolling out the new protocol through the Android Messages app, but so far has only extended the option throughout the UK and France. However, now there's a way for everyone to give it a try.

The trick was originally reported on Reddit, and there are reports of it working worldwide on various different carriers, and we've tried it successfully ourselves.

You'll need two apps to get started: Activity Launcher and the most recent Android Messages beta (currently version 5.2). You'll need to sign up for the open beta testing program before you can download the app.

Once you've downloaded the apps, turn Wi-Fi turned off so you're using mobile data, then follow the steps below.

  1. Turn off Wi-Fi so you're using mobile data
  2. Open Activity Launcher
  3. Select 'Activities' from the drop-down menu
  4. Select the Messages app
  5. Scroll down and tap 'Set RCS Flags'
  6. Set ACS URL to 'http://rcs-acs-prod-us.sandbox.google.com/'
  7. Set OTP Pattern to 'YourlsMessenger\sverification\scode\sis\sG-(\d {6})'
  8. Tap 'Apply'

You should then be presented with a splash screen informing you 'Messages just got better'. Tap 'Agree' and wait a moment for the setup to complete.

Enabling RCS

(Image credit: Google)

This all worked smoothly in our tests, but the Reddit thread suggests various troubleshooting options if you're having trouble.

So what's all the fuss about?

RCS is more like WhatsApp than traditional text messaging, letting you share files, send your live location, and share information from Google Assistant (such as details of movies, restaurants and weather reports). However, unlike WhatsApp, messages sent using RCS aren't encrypted. 

RCS messages will be sent using your mobile data allowance, so bear that in mind when sharing multimedia content. However, it's worth bearing in mind that if the message recipient doesn't have RCS, the message will be sent via SMS instead.

There's no way of telling how long this trick will continue to work – Google could revoke access any time – but for now it's a handy insight into the future of messaging.