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Google Messages blocking RCS on rooted Android devices is probably for the best

Published Mar 2nd, 2024 9:01AM EST
Google Pixel 8 Pro Software
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

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What must be a very small subset of Android users should be very angry with Google for blocking RCS support in Google Messages on their smartphones. These users have rooted their phones to run a different version of Android than the one the device shipped with. We’re no longer in the early years of Android, when rooting phones was quite popular, allowing consumers to run custom Android builds on their devices. 

If that’s related to security, I don’t think there’s a problem with Google blocking RCS on rooted handsets. Or spam. It’s just like what Apple did with Beeper Mini after Beeper found a way to enable iMessage on Android devices. The fact that Google did this without giving the affected users any heads-up is the real problem.

People started complaining online about the newly discovered RCS problem. As the following video shows, some users could not send or receive RCS messages on Google Messages on their rooted products. That’s quite an annoying experience to go through, and I can imagine how annoying it can be not to be able to talk to people. 

Oh wait, that’s not really a problem. Smartphones support all sorts of secure chat apps, and if you’re relying only on Google Messages to talk to people, you’re doing it wrong. WhatsApp and Signal are great alternatives. While we’re at it, these apps also let you chat with iPhone users securely.

Google confirmed the action it took against rooted users to The Verge.

Google is “ensuring that message-issuing/receiving devices are following the operating measures defined by the RCS standard,” the company said. It’s all for blocking spam and abuse of Google Messages. We all know that Google Messages has a huge spam issue in certain markets. If blocking rooted users from RCS will fix that, I’m all for it. 

Again, I’ll draw a comparison to the Beeper Mini saga. Beeper stole access to a proprietary messaging system, so Apple was right to patch the security issues. Google’s RCS is not exactly the GSMA RCS standard. It’s a proprietary version that also supports encryption. Conversely, iMessage will not support Google’s RCS but the GSMA standard. 

The point is that Google can do anything it wants to its version of Google Messages, RCS included. The irony here is that this covert action sort of defeats Google’s talk about messaging standards on phones in its campaign against Apple’s iMessage. Because, it turns out, Google blocking the “standard” communication protocol makes it not standard. 

Maybe that’s why Google has blocked RCS without warning anyone first. It might have hoped the fallout would be minimal. One Reddit post signaling the RCS issue only had about 100 upvotes at the time of this writing. Other threads have even fewer votes. As I said, a very small group of people will be affected. 

Google also told The Verge the affected users can still fall back to SMS and MMS messaging if RCS is unavailable. That sounds similar to the current iPhone-to-Android chatting experience. Therefore, very easy to get used to it. Maybe Elizabeth Warren should investigate it.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.