Last month, we covered the strong possibility of Android Q providing new APIs for RCS messaging to third-party app developers, based on some evidence in Android code. It appears that Google’s plans may have changed in the intervening month, according to a new commit.
RCS, the heart of Google’s “Chat” initiative, is currently only available through a select few apps, like Android Messages, and for now, third-party apps cannot easily use RCS. This is because Google needs to first create an API for apps to connect to, so that each app doesn’t need to build their own RCS handling from the ground up.
Android Q seemed poised to introduce such APIs for developers, making it possible for popular SMS apps like Textra, QKSMS, and more to send, receive and manage RCS messages. Unfortunately, a new commit has been posted to Android’s Gerrit source code management, which seems to plainly indicate a new future for RCS in Android Q.
The commit, entitled “Hide RcsMessageStore APIs,” does exactly what it claims to do, and “hides” the new RCS APIs from being available for developers to use. This by itself is unusual, as the APIs had just been “unhidden” earlier this month.
More explicitly, the message attached to the newest code change reads:
This feature is punted from Android Q.
You can’t get much clearer than that. While Google may have once intended for third-party apps on Android Q to be able to use RCS, now this idea has been delayed to a later version, possibly Android R. No public reason has been given for the RCS API’s “punt” from Android Q.
This is not a strong showing on Google’s part for the success of Chat and RCS in the near future. Judging from the level of community excitement about the upcoming API, many developers and users alike will surely be disappointed.