Zimbabwe and regional technology news and updates


Google Messages upgraded chat features finally rolling out to Zim

Last year, we wrote about how Android users could activate Google Messages chat functions which essentially turn your SMS app into something similar to WhatsApp – using data instead of airtime to text and being able to send more media-heavy messages.

The issue with the guide from last year is that it was a bit technical and tenuous – even I hated the process despite being quite tech-savvy. The process had too many steps and a single mistake would have users start that all over again. When I switched phones I didn’t do it again and I just waited for the feature to roll out locally.

PS: During our testing of RCS messaging (that’s what the chat features are called, we created a community and I made a good friend! Shout out Mark)

The feature is finally rolling out in Zimbabwe and as long as you have the Google Messages app as you default messaging application you’ll see the update notification soon enough. I got mine a few days ago, but I ignored it by mistake. It’s only when I saw it again that I understood what was happening.

So what do RCS chat features allow you to do?

So if you get the prompt to turn on Chat Features what will you be able to do after?

  • Chat over Wi-Fi
  • Sending and receiving high-resolution photos and videos 
  • Read receipts
  • Typing indicators
  • Group chat naming
  • Adding and removing people from group chats

This is much more serviceable than regular and costly SMSs but there are some pretty big downsides to Google’s chat offering. There’s no encryption which means what you send isn’t as safe as when you use WhatsApp or iMessage.

The fact that you also have to download the Google Messages app since it doesn’t come preinstalled on many phones will be a deterrent to many users. Many simply won’t know that this exists and if phone makers don’t make their default messaging apps compatible with RCS it’s hard to see the feature scaling.

No prompt, how do you turn on RCS?

Let’s say you got the prompt and skipped it entirely (like I initially did) or you just want to check if you have chat functions enable you can do the following;

  1. Download Google Messages;
  2. Open the app;
  3. Go to settings;
  4. Select Chat Features;
  5. There’s a status section that will inform you if chat features are available;
  6. If they are available you can proceed to verify your number and Chat functionality will be enabled.

PS: You might run into a problem during the verification. My phone has been taking forever to verify my number and I’m not sure what the fix for that is at the moment.

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