How to force Google Messages to use SMS when RCS fails?

This morning I sat in my car waiting for the parking lot on the Alternate Side of the Street to end (a dance many New York car owners go through) and texted my partner for his turn. As usual, I used the Messages app on my Pixel 6 phone to contact him and waited for the usual reply (“On the way!” or “Stay there in a few minutes!”), but after about four minutes I realized that I had had no response. When I checked the app I saw that the SMS had not been sent – instead there was a small message that my partner’s phone was off and asked if I wanted to send a SMS/MMS instead.

What?

I chose to send the text and got an immediate response (proving the phone was .) not from). What was the problem? I’m not entirely sure, but Google Messages uses RCS, an online protocol that Google has been trying to make a standard — and for some reason, the app had apparently decided that my partner’s Pixel was unavailable.

Google has been making a lot of noise about Messages lately and has even made it friendlier when messaging with iPhones. But clearly there are still kinks.

If you use Google Messages for your chats (instead of Chat or Hangouts or whatever) and for some reason your Messages app decides you can’t send RCS text, here’s a feature you might want enable – just in case of. It ensures that you don’t have to check if your text has gone out; instead, it automatically sends your message over the less secure but still available SMS/MMS protocol. Once RCS is available again, it will switch back. (These directions are for a Pixel 6 running Android 12 – as usual with Android, YMMV.)

  • Open the To inform app, tap the three dots in the top right corner of the main screen and select Institutions
  • Select Chat Features
  • Find Auto resend as text (SMS/MMS) and turn it on
  • When you enable the feature, you will be warned that messages sent as SMS/MMS are not end-to-end encrypted, but messages will switch back when the chat functions reconnect. If that’s okay with you, select Allow

And that’s it! I like the security and media features that come with the RCS protocol of the Message app, but when I send a text message I want to make sure it goes through as soon as possible. (Otherwise, I’d send an email — or maybe a nice note.) If you agree, you might want to make sure this feature is turned on.

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