The Pixel 3A and Pixel 3 are available as officially supported and sold phones on T-Mobile.
The Pixel 3A and Pixel 3 support the next generation texting protocol, the Universal Profile for RCS (or Rich Communication Services or Chat).
T-Mobile supports RCS.
But for Pixel 3A and Pixel 3, there is no RCS chat on the T-Mobile network. How is that broken?
When Google unveiled its plans to support RCS Chat on Android for the first time in April 2018, I wanted to believe that it could be quick to replace SMS on Android phones. RCS Chat is still not an end-to-end encrypted communications service, but at least provides better chat features such as read receipts, group chats and higher quality attachments.
Pixel phones support RCS on many carriers, including Verizon, Sprint, and Google's own Fi network (which, in a delicious irony, is an MVNO that theoretically provides access to multiple mobile networks, but usually sets me on T-Mobile towers ). Many Android phones on the T-Mobile network also support RCS, although support for Universal Profiles is still pending.
I had the hope that this rollout is almost complete because Google itself was all on RCS ̵
A year later, progress in the US was ridiculously slow. Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile all support the Universal profile, which ensures that you can send text messages to people on different carriers. However, it seems that supporting RCS at the carrier level is not enough to guarantee that you will receive it as a customer. Network operators apparently need to individually approve support for each phone model when they arrive on the network. T-Mobile did not seem to do that for pixel phones, as you'll see below.
Maybe. I could be wrong! The technical details are very unclear to me. I'm not an RCS expert, I only play one on TV. I've asked both Google and T-Mobile to explain what's going on, but in the meantime, we've found the best tweets from T-Mobile that have 9to5Google :
For mobile service providers "Our advanced messaging RCS capabilities are at the core of the network, not integrated with individual apps or devices, and the pixels do not currently support this network-level authentication. ^ MarvaBiggar
– Help from T-Mobile (@TMobileHelp) May 9, 2019
Big question, Joshua. The Galaxy S7, S7 Edge, S8, S8 +, S8 Active, Note 8, S9, S9 +, and Note 9 currently support RCS Universal Profile 1.0. We plan to enable RCS Universal Profile 1.0 for more Android devices this year. DM us if you have questions. ^ MichaelMarks
– T-Mobile Help (@TMobileHelp) May 9, 2019
It's very difficult to understand all the technical nuances behind it, whether, why, and how carriers support the universal profile, to convey exactly for RCS. A carrier could support RCS, but not the Universal Profile. A carrier could support RCS, but apparently is not fully connected to the connection, so it works with other carriers. Here is a Google spreadsheet from Reddit that is still the best source of information. (Note that AT & T is not included anywhere in the Universal Profile, for example.)
If you are looking for the culprit, there is also a handy reddit thread. The answer is simple: everybody is guilty. Blame Google for keeping such a vital attribute to the whims and fantasies of forwarders. Blame the carriers for being more interested in using non-existent 5G technologies rather than replacing outdated SMS systems.
I have a reputation for operating messaging fans, and the reputation has been confirmed. Last night during my live encroachment, I asked Hiroshi Lockheimer, who is responsible for Google's communications products, to talk about the status of RCS. He has not specifically referred to T-Mobile, but he said this in the US via RCS: "I'll be honest, and I've mentioned this [carriers]I'm a bit frustrated with the pace of this , It has to get better.
Internationally, RCS is much better, according to Reddit's huge spreadsheet.
One final note: Although all these partners may take a break to talk about 5G. One day, when working on real, interoperable RCS, the standard still has a fundamental problem. It's not end-to-end encrypted, so any government can easily pre-load a carrier to gain access to your chats. I specifically asked Lockheimer about this and he said, "We can address these issues. I am sure that we can develop the standard for these cases. "
I hope that's true, and I hope this will be cleaner than with the current launch of RCS in the US. Until then, there is nothing left but to wait. I'll update this post when I hear from T-Mobile or Google why Pixel phones do not have RCS on that network.