Best laptops and tablets on sale: Shop MacBook, Dell, Lenovo, and more this week

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Deals on Dell laptops, Lenovo IdeaPads, and more this week.
Deals on Dell laptops, Lenovo IdeaPads, and more this week.

Image: walmart/mashable photo composite

Maybe you haven’t heard, but today is National Apple Strudel Day, which means you should definitely go out and enjoy one (or a few) of the delicious treats with your work buddies on this slow Monday afternoon. 

What’s better than an apple strudel, though? How about an Apple laptop.

If you’re full of strudel and still have some cash to blow, we think you should check out these awesome deals on laptops and tablets that we pulled together for this week. Included on our list are savings on MacBooks, Lenovo IdeaPads, Dell laptops, and much, much more. 

Check out all the best deals on laptops and tablets we found for this week, and pick up one of these devices on sale while you can:

Laptops $499 and below:

Laptops $500 to $999:

Laptops $1,000 and up:

Tablets on sale:

More tickets available to the 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party

Get ready for summer in the city, TechCrunch -style. We just released a fresh batch of tickets to the 14th Annual TechCrunch Summer Party. Available on a first-come, first-served basis, tickets to our popular event sell out quickly, and they’ll be gone before you know it. Don’t wait — buy your ticket today.

Join us for TechCrunch’s fabulous summer fete at Park Chalet — San Francisco’s coastal beer garden — where you can enjoy ocean views, refreshing drinks and delicious appetizers. It’s a wonderful way to relax and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit with more than 1,000 members of the startup community.

It’s also a wonderful way to meet your next investor, co-founder or — who knows? You’ll find startup magic in between the drinks, the games, the food and the fun. Opportunity happens at TechCrunch parties.

Check out the party particulars:

  • When: July 25 from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • Where: Park Chalet in San Francisco
  • How much: $95

Come and join the summer fun. Connect with community and opportunity. As always, you’ll have a chance to win great door prizes — like TechCrunch swag, Amazon Echos and tickets to Disrupt San Francisco 2019.

Tickets sell out quickly, so don’t wait. Buy your 14th Annual Summer Party ticket today.

Did you try to buy a ticket and come up empty? We release tickets to the Summer Party on a rolling basis. Sign up here, and we’ll let you know when the next batch goes on sale.

Is your company interested in sponsoring or exhibiting at the TechCrunch 14th Annual Summer Party? Contact our sponsorship sales team by filling out this form.

No, Elon Musk did not delete his Twitter account

I am now being subjected to headlines like “Elon Musk ‘deletes’ Twitter account after bizarre video game fan art scandal” because apparently journalists in the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Nineteen can’t wrap their brains around shitposting. If you can see Elon Musk’s Twitter account, he has not deleted it.

This is almost too stupid to explain, so I actually wasn’t going to bother. But Bloomberg decided to make a video out of it and Mashable’s headline confused at least one of my coworkers into asking me if it was true. (AP’s headline is slightly better: “Elon Musk Says He Is Deleting His Twitter Account.” It would be improved thus: “Elon Musk Tweets That He Deleted His Twitter Account.”)

Here is what happened: Musk got wild on Twitter this weekend. On Saturday, Musk tweeted fan art of a video game character, without identifying the artist (Meli Magali, by the way). Naturally, artists and other creative types take it pretty poorly when their work is taken without acknowledgement, regardless of whether that use is legal.

Musk promptly got into a troll-y fight about his right to use other people’s work without giving them credit. He’s actually lost this fight before — in that case, the dispute over was a farting unicorn design. If you want a sense of the Twitter back-and-forth, Kotaku has some screenshots. The part of the fight that is possibly relevant for our purposes is when one of his interlocutors points out that it feels bad when someone avoids giving you credit for your work. The user has a sore subject to use as an example: “Martin Eberhard is responsible for all of Tesla’s success.”

Martin Eberhard is a co-founder of Tesla, along with Marc Tarpenning; the two founded the company in 2003. Musk came in as an investor, ponying up $6.5 million. That much is clear. Musk at some point took over and Eberhard was fired in 2007. Musk became CEO of Tesla in 2008. Eberhard later sued Musk for libel and slander, alleging Musk had downplayed Eberhard’s contributions and that Musk was claiming he was a co-founder. The details of the settlement aren’t public, though Musk and two others are now considered co-founders of Tesla.

So Eberhard is, obviously, a point of aggravation. And when the user brought him up, Musk said in a tweet that has now been deleted: “Tesla is alive in spite of Eberhard, but he seeks credit constantly & fools give it him.” (Business Insider has a helpful screenshot of the exchange.) If you are too nosy for your own good — hello, sit next to me — you may be wondering if there was a non-disparagement clause in Musk’s settlement with Eberhard. You may be wondering also, uh did that tweet violate it, if such an agreement exists?

Anyway, following this incredible display, Musk deleted a bunch of his tweets, including the one of the Magali fan art. Then he changed his name to Daddy dot com. Then he announced he had deleted Twitter, on Twitter. I have just checked, again, to make sure his account exists and it does, though Musk hasn’t tweeted for — as of this writing — 14 hours since announcing the deletion. (He is no longer referring to himself as Daddy dot com, though.)

He’ll be back. He’s always back. Musk got into a fight with a cave diver that led to a defamation suit, and he hasn’t left Twitter. Musk tweeted that he was going to take his company private, then didn’t, and got in trouble with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Twitter dot com. Elon lives for this shit.

Let’s be clear: Elon Musk has not logged off. Elon Musk is never going to log off. Stop yelling “log off” at Elon Musk’s house. He can’t hear you.

Best 4K TV deals this week: Vizio, LG, Samsung, and $3,000 off Hisense

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Save on TVs from Samsung, LG, Vizio, and more from 50 inches to 86 inches.
Save on TVs from Samsung, LG, Vizio, and more from 50 inches to 86 inches.

Image: hisense

It’s officially “checking your weather app to see that yes, it’s going to rain this week” season.

Unless you live in the handful of states where showers are few and far between, you’ll likely be greeted with multiple thunderstorms over the next month or two. And the only thing thunderstorms love more than warm weather is cancelling your outdoor, warm weather plans.

For the gloomy days when you’re all cooped up, a backup form of entertainment is crucial. Find a yoga workout to do in your living room, get around to that vacuuming you’ve been putting off, or binge-watch that show you keep hearing about. 

To help with the last one, a giant slew of 4K smart TVs are on sale this week: Take $300 off a 49-inch from Samsung for a smaller bedroom, $700 off a 65-inch from Vizio to mount on the wall, or establish your home as the hangout spot with an 1,000-inch from Hisense for over $3,000 off.

Here are our favorite deals:

Check out these deals, too:

40 inches and up

50 inches and up

60 inches and up

70 inches and up

80 inches and up

Samsung asks QLED TV owners to run a virus scan

Image: samsung


PCMag.com is a leading authority on technology, delivering Labs-based, independent reviews of the latest products and services. Our expert industry analysis and practical solutions help you make better buying decisions and get more from technology.

If you own a smart TV, chances are you’ve hooked it up to the internet in order to access popular apps such as Netflix. But by doing so, you’re also taking a risk, as your TV might get infected with malware. That’s what Samsung thinks, and it’s suggesting you run a regular virus scan on its TVs.

“Scanning your computer for malware viruses is important to keep it running smoothly. This also is true for your QLED TV if it’s connected to Wi-Fi! Prevent malicious software attacks on your TV by scanning for viruses on your TV every few weeks,” Samsung tweeted from its @SamsungSupport Twitter feed on Monday.

The ensuing reports about possible malware on Samsung TVs was apparently not what the company was going for with its tweet, which has since been deleted.

A video also showed owners of QLED TV models exactly how to access the built-in security scan feature, which is three layers deep in the TV’s interface menu.

To access it, you have to load the menu and navigate to General > System Manager > Smart Security before tapping “Scan.” It takes longer to trigger the scan than it does to perform one. It’s unclear why this isn’t an automatic scan that is performed as the TV is turned on.

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This article originally published at PCMag
here

Logitech MX Sound Bluetooth speakers are $30 off at Dell

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These speakers switch seamlessly between Bluetooth devices.
These speakers switch seamlessly between Bluetooth devices.

Image: logitech

TL;DR: These crisp Logitech MX Sound Bluetooth speakers are on sale for $69.99, saving you $30.


It’s 2019 and we don’t have time to be tied down by wires and cords, not even at our desks. Bluetooth speakers allow you to play audio from your computer and easily switch over to stream from your phone if you choose, adding some versatility to your setup.

Logitech MX Sound Bluetooth speakers bring a premium audio experience to your desk, and you can grab a pair on sale for $69.99 at Dell, a price drop of $30.

These speakers feature high-end drivers, premium fabric, and motion-activated backlit controls to deliver a unique wireless audio experience. You can pair up to two Bluetooth devices to the speaker set or connect a device via the 3.5-millimeter input.

These compact speakers output true, balanced audio and deep, expansive bass. Access volume and other controls directly on the speakers or through your devices. 

Normally the Logitech MX Sound speakers cost $99.99, but you can snag them for $69.99 at Dell.

The New Era of E-Commerce Personalization

A personalized shopping experience gives e-commerce sites an edge, and businesses increasingly have been seeking ways to make their customers feel welcome.

“Every business should make their customers feel like they are the most important customer in the world,” said Rob Maille, head of strategy and customer experience at CommerceCX.

“To do that you need to know and anticipate their wants and needs to deliver the most frictionless shopping experience possible,” he told the E-Commerce Times. “When a customer feels like they are treated well, they tend to purchase more goods and endorse the provider with repeat business and word of mouth.”

Customers are willing to pay a premium for more personalized experiences.

“Research from Deloitte found that one in four consumers are willing to pay more for a personalized product, and that reflects what we’re seeing in the market,” said Kris Goldhair, strategic account director at KBMax.

“We’re in an era of instant gratification, where customers want what they want, when they want it, and they assign greater value to custom goods as opposed to something that’s mass-produced,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

The more customers experience personalization in their shopping experiences, the more they expect it every time they visit an e-commerce site.

“Customers have come to expect unique and personalized experiences with brands every time they interact with them — whether online, in-store or via mobile devices,” observed Sarah Assous, senior vice president for marketing at Zoovu.

“The myriad of options available to today’s consumers allows them to choose from numerous vendors and explore countless products online. However, while the vast number of product options is beneficial, it can ultimately lead to roadblocks in consumers’ ability to make a selection, better known as ‘choice overload,'” she told the E-Commerce Times.

The more ubiquitous personalization becomes, the more customers are inclined to evaluate companies by the degree of personalization they offer at every step of the way in their shopping experiences.

“As we embark on this new era of e-commerce, where customer expectations are rising every day, companies have an opportunity to differentiate by providing an in-store personalized experience online,” said Ryan Lester, senior director of customer experience technologies at LogMeIn.

“Whether that’s helping customers with product discovery or delivering proactive support, it’s these types of experiences that help companies make the most of the short time they have with their buyers,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

Getting Personal

Artificial intelligence is a particularly important part of any kind of customized shopping experience, since it serves as a bridge between customers and e-commerce retailers.

“The deployment of AI-powered conversational marketing tools is a key first step,” noted Zoovu’s Assous. “Conversational marketing tools are able to guide consumers through the buyer journey to ensure that consumers are able to identify their ideal products and make the appropriate purchase accordingly. Recent data shows that 81 percent of consumers said using a digital sales assistant would increase their purchase decision-confidence.”

In combination with customer data, AI can be an invaluable tool.

“An effective way retailers are using data with their integrated CRM systems is to create customized promotions and attractive incentive offers suited to each customer in an effort to improve their chances of driving conversions,” noted CommerceCX’s Maille.

Effective personalization requires getting all the technology and data to work together seamlessly to deliver a unique experience to each customer.

“It all starts with creating a streamlined personalization and buying experience with a solid CPQ (configure, price, quote) solution,” said KBMax’s Goldhair.

“Such a solution helps to dissolve the silos between sales and engineering in order to facilitate more prompt communication and fulfill customer expectations for a speedy, personalized experience,” he pointed out. “A quality CPQ solution can also eliminate the pressure that retail manufacturers might feel to overhaul all systems, perfect a custom solution, or invest a lot into a proprietary tool. The right third-party solution provider can help to reduce time-to-market and establish a workflow specially suited for mass customization manufacturing.”

Though it can be expensive, customizing customer experiences and products may be worth the investment.

“Retailers are beginning to discover that the expense of investing in mass customization as a trend is worth the extra sales — especially with the help of emerging 4IR (fourth industrial revolution) technologies like CPQ,” said Goldhair. “These solutions can help manufacturers handle the increased production of custom goods while keeping overhead costs low.”

It’s important to remember, however, that delivering a truly customized shopping experience is a long process.

“What’s most important to remember is that digital transformation doesn’t need to happen overnight,” cautioned Goldhair. “Companies should slowly chip away in order to prevent overspending on unnecessary technology. By taking everything one step at a time, manufacturers can take advantage of revolutionary tech while slowly changing their processes and avoid feeling overwhelmed.”

The Future of Personalization

Customization in the future likely will continue to evolve into ever more personalized shopping experiences.

“When this is done right, the shopping, buying and service experience of a modern commerce ecosystem will have a direct impact on the experience, which will make the technology feel like a trusted friend,” said Maille. “You can’t get more personalized than that.”

Customers increasingly will expect their personalized products to be delivered almost instantaneously, which means that the pathways between ordering, manufacturing and shipping will need to be seamless.

“It’s one thing to offer personalization and another to respond with the speed today’s customers expect,” said Assous. “If manufacturers really want to be prepared to ramp up production quickly, they need automated tools in place to quickly configure products and produce accurate quotes, produce engineering specifications, transmit a bill of materials into an ERP system to ensure an adequate supply of raw materials is available, and share all this information with the manufacturing floor.”

Over time, personalization is likely to shape nearly all aspects of the shopping experience, from a customer’s initial browsing to the manufacturing and shipping of products.

“Today, not very many companies go beyond the recommendation engines, but soon it will become a normal part of the experience,” predicted LogMeIn’s Lester.

“As personalization continues to mature, we’ll see it move from a reactionary mode — that is, answering a question in a contextual and tailored way — to more of an assistive role, where technology will be able to keep a perpetual conversation with the customer going so that companies can better identify their customers’ needs. This creates long-term engagement that can result in additional purchases and brand loyalty.”


Vivian Wagner has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. Her main areas of focus are technology, business, CRM, e-commerce, privacy, security, arts, culture and diversity. She has extensive experience reporting on business and technology for a variety of outlets, including The Atlantic, The Establishment and O, The Oprah Magazine. She holds a PhD in English with a specialty in modern American literature and culture. She received a first-place feature reporting award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists. Email Vivian.

Twitch sues to unmask trolls that posted violent and pornographic streams

The Amazon-owned game streaming platform Twitch is suing anonymous trolls who posted a slew of harmful and illegal content, including the Christchurch shooting, on the platform late last month. If the company learns the identities of these people, they plan to request the court to prohibit them from using the platform and force them to pay damages, as first reported by Bloomberg.

The videos were posted last month by an organized group of trolls in Twitch’s Artifact category, who are named in the lawsuit as John and Jane Does 1-100. Aside from the video filmed by the Christchurch shooter, trolls also streamed porn, copyrighted movies and television shows, and other illegal and harmful content.

“Over the weekend of May 25, we became aware of a number of accounts engaging in a coordinated attack targeting the ‘Artifact’ game directory to share content that grossly violates our terms of service,” a Twitch spokesperson said in a statement. “We worked with urgency to remove the offending content and suspend all accounts engaged in this behavior, and are taking measures to prevent this from happening on our service in the future.”

The spokesperson continued, “We take these violations extremely seriously—we are pursuing litigation to identify these bad actors, and will take all appropriate actions to protect our community.”

At the time, the trolling campaign was widely reported and resulted in Twitch disabling new accounts from streaming for “almost two days.” Valve’s Artifact card game had been recently named Twitch’s least popular game, and trolls, looking to hop on the meme, organized in Discord chats to troll the category.

It’s an unusual move from a platform and the first of its kind. Other social media companies like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube will generally work to remove the violating content and ban the users who post it, but not sue them for fear of chilling anonymous activity on the platform. In the case of Christchurch, platforms like Facebook were still working to stop the spread of the video weeks after the shooting occurred.

Don’t buy these $100 Minecraft: Story Mode episodes on your Xbox 360

As part of the shutdown of Telltale Games, support for Minecraft: Story Mode is set to end on June 25th. But due to some weirdness with how the Xbox Live store works on the Xbox 360 specifically, the company had to re-add the episodes to the store for a whopping $99.99 each, in order to allow players who already own the game to re-download their content before it’s removed for good, via Polygon.

Obviously, that price is way beyond the $4.99 price each episode originally ran for, but $100 per episode here. As the Minecraft: Story Mode Facebook account explains, “The price shown is a real list price, please do not buy the content, if you do, you will be charged the amount shown. This is simply the only mechanism available to facilitate players being able to download their remaining episodes prior to servers shutting down.”

Other platforms aren’t effected by whatever issue on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 storefront is necessitating this bizarre solution, one made all the weirder by the fact that Microsoft owns and runs both Minecraft and Xbox. Apparently, despite having near total control over the systems at play here, this was the best solution that it could come up with.

Once June 25th arrives, the $100 listings will once again be removed, preventing players that already own the game from re-downloading it again, meaning that if you’d like to play Minecraft: Story Mode again on your Xbox 360, you might want to get on that soon.

Or, theoretically, if you don’t already own Minecraft: Story Mode but really, really want to play it, you could buy all 13 episodes now for the low price of $1,299.87.

Google is finally taking charge of the RCS rollout

We’ve been hearing about RCS, the replacement for SMS texting, for over a year now, but actually using the next-generation service has been nearly impossible due to complicated carrier and phone maker politics. But now Google is taking over: later this month, Android users in the UK and France will be able to opt in to RCS Chat services provided directly by Google instead of waiting for their carrier to support it.

That seems like yet another minor status check-in on the service meant to replace SMS, but in fact it’s a huge shift in strategy: as Google rolls this offering out to more countries, it should eventually mean that RCS will become universally available for all Android users.

For the first time in years, Google will directly offer a better default texting experience to Android users instead of waiting for cellphone carriers to do it. It’s not quite the Google equivalent of an iMessage service for Android users, but it’s close. Not knowing when or if RCS Chat would be available for your phone was RCS’s second biggest problem, and Google is fixing it.

RCS’s biggest problem is that messages are still not end-to-end encrypted. iMessage, WhatsApp, and Signal are secured in that way, and even Facebook has said it will make all its apps encrypted by default. Google’s chat solution is increasingly looking out of touch — even immoral.

But there is hope on that front as well. The product management director overseeing Android Messages, Sanaz Ahari, assures me that Google recognizes the need for private chat within RCS and is working on it. Here’s her full statement:

We fundamentally believe that communication, especially messaging, is highly personal and users have a right to privacy for their communications. And we’re fully committed to finding a solution for our users.

What it means to you should be simple: if you have an Android phone, the timeline for when the RCS switch will be available has become shorter. Google says that it will release the services to more countries “throughout the year,” but wouldn’t commit to saying that it would be available in all regions by the end of the year. However, as Ahari puts it, the goal is “a great, simple user experience that just works for every Android user.”

As with all things related to Google’s messaging strategy in general, and Rich Communication Services (RCS) specifically, none of this is happening with the speed or clarity I’d like. But it’s happening, finally, and there are a lot of details to go through if you want to fully understand how it will work and what it means.

How Google’s RCS Chat service will work

RCS is the next-generation texting protocol that most carriers around the world have agreed should eventually replace SMS. It offers most of the features that you’d expect from a modern messaging app, including read receipts, high-quality attachments, and typing indicators (though, again, it lacks end-to-end encryption). Google’s Android Messages app refers to RCS as “Chat,” which is a more consumer-friendly name for the service.

The process will be opt-in. When users open up the Android Messages app, they’ll see a prompt offering to upgrade to RCS Chat. This will also apply to new phones. RCS Chat will be in the default app and offered to every Android user, but for now the plan is not to make it the default. Apple automatically opts users in to iMessage, but Google is going to require an active choice.

Ahari says that “A user also needs to know that Google is providing the service … [from a] terms of service standpoint.”

For most users, this is all you really need to know:

  • If you see the Chat prompt, click yes to enable RCS services from Google. Then if you see “Chat” in the app, you’re talking to somebody else who has RCS.
  • It’s encrypted in transit, but it’s not fully end-to-end encrypted, so your RCS provider can potentially see the contents of your messages, and turn them over to the government if properly asked. Google says it will delete them from its servers as soon as they’re delivered to your phone — more on this below.
  • It will work with any other phone that supports the RCS Universal Profile, regardless of whether Google or the carrier provides the service.
  • Finally, unless you’re in the UK or France, there’s no official timeline for when Google will flip the switch in your country.

But if you want to dig in beyond those bullets, there are a ton of interesting and relevant technical details. One notable difference between RCS Chat and other chat apps: there’s no database of who has it and who doesn’t. When you send an iMessage, Apple uses a central database called the “Apple Identity Service” that determines whether the person you’re contacting also has iMessage.

Google

That option isn’t available for RCS, because it uses a “federated model” where different carriers are in charge of the servers that deliver messages to their users. That makes it more complicated, but it’s important that whatever replaces SMS not be solely controlled by a single company.

Because it can’t rely on a central database, Android Messages sends a query directly to the other phone. Drew Rowny, product lead for Messages, tells me when you open a texting window in Android Messages, it pings everybody on that chat with an invisible message (sort of like a push notification) asking if they support RCS Chat, and Android Messages silently responds “Yes” if it does. Those messages are a “capability exchange,” and Rowny calls it a “point-driven” model, as opposed to Apple’s server-based system for iMessage.

Because the phone itself is responsible for telling others that it has Chat, it’s still tied to a phone number. It also means you won’t be able to have messages come in to multiple devices at once, like iMessage allows. You can still use a web interface by scanning a QR code with your phone, but it still depends on your phone for sending and receiving.

The point-driven model matters because it’s also what enables Google to just roll this system out without waiting for permission from carriers. RCS supersedes SMS because the Android Messages app can simply tell other phones that it has Chat capabilities. Rowny says that “from a technical architecture point of view, the more we’re able to do at the app level, the easier that is.”

Although RCS Chat is not (yet) end-to-end encrypted, there is at least one small piece of good news in how Google has implemented it. Rowny says that the company doesn’t keep any of the messages that pass through its servers. “From a data retention point of view, we delete the message from our RCS backend service the moment we deliver it to an end user,” he explains, adding “If we keep it, it’s just to deliver it when that person comes online.”

There is one minor caveat to that data retention. In a later statement, a Google spokesperson said “Files (stickers, GIFs, photos, videos) within messages might be retained for a period of time without user identifiers following delivery to ensure that all recipients can download the file.” I also asked about metadata, which is often a loophole that gets ignored in privacy discussions. Those should be temporary, too: “We temporarily log metadata about the device such as IMSI, phone number, RCS client vendor and version, and timestamps for a limited period of time to provide the service.”

If a carrier directly offers RCS, Google will let that carrier handle your messages. So if you’re wondering about data retention policies, you’ll have to figure out whether it’s Google or your carrier transporting your messages. As with SMS, there’s no reason those carriers can’t hang on to your messages and hand them over to governments that demand them. So until RCS supports end-to-end encryption, the safest assumption is that someone else can read your messages.

Here’s one last technical detail, as long as we’re already deep in this rabbit hole: if you switch your SIM card over to a phone that doesn’t support RCS Chat, Rowny says that Google won’t “black hole” messages. In other words, its system should recognize fairly quickly that you can’t receive Chat messages and revert back to SMS automatically.

Apple, of course, has not said whether it intends to ever support RCS on the iPhone.


Our original video explaining RCS Chat from April 2018.

Why Google had to do it

Until now, carriers have been in charge of deciding when to turn on RCS — it’s been their service, not Google’s. Google had made the decision not to just up and replace the default texting app with its own service and seemed committed to it. Whether that was because of concerns over aggravating carrier partners or simple product mismanagement is a question only Google executives can answer — though that answer is surely a combination of both.

Unfortunately, and all too predictably, the rollout of RCS has been terrible (especially in the US). Although Google notes that RCS is live in “24 markets,” that doesn’t really mean that much because of how many complications and caveats are involved in getting the service.

Even if your carrier supports RCS, that doesn’t mean that its chat messages will interoperate with other RCS users. Your carrier has to support the Universal Profile, and not all of them do. And even then, just because a carrier supports RCS doesn’t mean that every Android phone on that network will get it, because they’ve been approving handsets one by one. For example, T-Mobile isn’t supporting RCS on the Pixel 3A.

If you want to use iMessage, you buy an iPhone. If you want to use Signal or WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, you install the apps. If you want to use RCS, you’d wait to see if your carrier planned to support it, wait for your carrier to turn it on, and hope that your particular phone was blessed to use it. And the same process applied to everybody you’d want to talk to. It is like the Upside Down, Demogorgon version of the network effect. It is untenable.

It is also exactly the sort of mess that we were all worried Google would wade into when it told me about its plans for RCS Chat over a year ago. “The experience is still pretty hard to understand for users,” Ahari admits. “That’s something we also feel the pain of.” Last month, Google’s Hiroshi Lockheimer said “I’ll be honest, and I’ve mentioned this to [carriers], I’m a little bit frustrated at the pace of this. It needs to get better,” during The Vergecast.

So instead of making you wait for your carrier to provide RCS services, Google is finally just going to do it itself.

It’s the option I’ve always referred to as “going full iMessage”: just taking over texting and carriers be damned. Google’s not going that nuclear — it’s still opt-in and carriers can run their own RCS services if they want, but it’s the most user-friendly thing to do, and hopefully Google doesn’t take too long rolling out support in more countries.

What it means

If you’re an Android user, this RCS news is cause for celebration. If you’re worried about Google’s market power, it’s cause for concern.

Android runs on something like 75 percent of smartphones worldwide, and using that dominance to transition billions of people away from SMS and toward a Google-run service is the sort of thing that should widen the eyes of antitrust regulators everywhere. Google’s RCS Chat in Android Messages will be yet another part of the services and apps from Google that have already being scrutinized in Europe.

In a sense, the incredibly messy rollout of RCS over the past year could be Google’s best defense against accusations of monopolistic practices. The argument would probably go something like this: Google doesn’t control this standard, the GSMA carrier association does, and all Google is doing is implementing it. Besides, Google did its level best to get carriers to do it themselves and they haven’t. Plus, if any carrier wants to take over running RCS for its customers from Google, Google will happily let them.

It’s also possible that Google is starting this process only in the UK and France as a kind of test balloon to see if regulators would buy any of the above arguments — or if they’ll even notice.

Ahari says that Google wanted to “start with a smaller set of markets, just to make sure that we have the right experiences [for customers],” adding that Google is “also doing this making sure that we’re partnering well with the ecosystem.” Ahari points out that many carriers have been asking Google to provide this service.

In fact, Ahari came back to the idea that Google is “partnering well with the ecosystem” a few times in our conversation. In a later statement, a Google representative repeated the point that Google will be “flexible to operator needs.” In other words: if there is any pushback from carriers or regulators, operators at Google are standing by to take their call.

Assuming the rollout continues and goes worldwide (except, of course, in China), Google will also be taking on a huge responsibility. When I asked how it intends to, you know, pay for all this, Ahari’s answer was twofold. First, “Monetizing those messages is not an immediate priority for us.” Google believes messaging is a core phone feature and it’s too important to leave in the messy state it’s in right now, whatever the cost.

The second part, of course, is the real answer: Google won’t charge users, but it can charge businesses that want to use RCS chat to communicate with customers. “That is an area where there is an opportunity to provide a better experience,” Ahari says, “and given that [SMS] is monetized today, we know that as long as it creates value for businesses, then there is value to be created.”

If that sounds like Google serving you ads, it’s not meant to. It’s simply Google charging businesses that want to use RCS to provide customer service. A spokesperson notes that users need to opt-in to communicate with businesses, and more importantly that “Google does not access messages for advertising or for other Google services.”


The fact that Google is finally taking responsibility for fixing the RCS rollout is heartening. It took some gumption to face potential carrier ire and a greater chance of antitrust investigations. It’s going to take even more for the next step: end-to-end encryption.

Technically, there’s nothing in the RCS spec that would prevent building in end-to-end encryption. Google just has to get the GSMA to agree to a standard to add on to the Universal Profile (the spec that lets RCS services interoperate). That’s easier said than done, but again, it’s technically possible. It’s not just carriers, however: plenty of governments would be unhappy to see the default texting method on 75 percent of the world’s phones “go dark,” as the FBI likes to refer to it.

I can’t tell you if Google has the leverage — or the courage — to bring encryption to RCS. I can only tell you that it should.