iMessage vs. Google's new texting app: What's the difference?

Google is finally replacing traditional SMS text messaging with a more Apple iMessage-like texting option that offers read receipts, the ability to message over Wi-Fi or mobile data, and the ability to leave group chats. The improved texting is powered by technology called RCS, which stands for Rich Communication Services, and begins rolling out Thursday, Google said. Most Android users in the US will get the new texting features by the end of the year.

While the RCS-powered texting will give Android phones texting capabilities that are similar to Apple's iMessage feature, the two are not exactly the same. Here are the differences between Android RCS texting and Apple iMessage.

Android RCS messaging

Android is replacing the 25-year-old SMS (that's Short Message Service) texting protocol with RCS, which includes the following features, according to a Google blog post:

Unlike Apple's iMessage and other messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Android RCS texting will not offer end-to-end encryption, which secures messages so only the sender and receiver can read them, Sanaz Ahari, director of product management for Google's communications services, told CNET's Rich Nieva.

Android rolled out these messaging features earlier this year in the UK, France and Mexico ("We'll continue to work on bringing this to everyone on Messages around the world," Google says). To use RCS, both your phone and your wireless carrier have to support it. In October, the four major US wireless carriers -- Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint -- joined together to form the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative, an effort aimed at standardizing RCS starting with Android in 2020.

Google is doing a slow rollout, so only about 1% of US Android phones will get the update on Thursday, while most others will see the new messaging features by the end of 2019. Android users can turn on RCS by opening the Android Messages app and enabling chat features (the app should give you a prompt to do so). Once RCS has been rolled out, you'll be able to use the Messages app as you normally do, and when you message someone who also has the feature turned on, the new type of messaging will be enabled. You can revert back to SMS if you choose.

Apple iMessage

Apple's Messages app combines texting with the company's proprietary iMessages platform, which first launched in 2011 with iOS 5. The company adds new features to Messages with every major iOS release, an effective way to keep users in the Apple ecosystem. Apple's iMessages platform includes all of the same features as RCS messaging, and others:

iMessage does offer end-to-end encryption to keep messages more secure. You can currently use iMessage on any iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch or Mac.

Will Apple and Android messages work together?

No, at least not for now. Google's RCS texting won't make a difference in Apple-Android text interactions unless Apple decides to support it on iPhones, Ahari told CNET -- and it's unlikely that Apple will do so. So you're still a green bubble, sorry.