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


Just this morning, I was sitting in my car waiting for Alternate Side of the Street parking to end (a dance that many car-owning New Yorkers go through) and texted my partner to come take his turn. As normal, I used the Messages app on my Pixel 6 phone to contact him and waited for the usual reply (“On my way!” or “Be there in a few!”), but after about four minutes or so, I realized that I hadn’t had a response. When I checked the app, I saw that the text hadn’t been sent — instead, there was a tiny message saying my partner’s phone was off and asking if I wanted to send an SMS / MMS instead.


I chose to send the SMS and got an immediate reply (proving that the phone was not off). What was the problem? I’m not absolutely 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 not available.

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

If you use Google Messages for your chats (rather than Chat, or Hangouts, or whatever) and, for some reason, your Messages app decides that you can’t send an RCS text, here’s a feature that you may want to enable — just in case. It will ensure that you don’t have to check whether or not your text has gone out; instead, it will automatically send your message via 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 with Android 12 — as usual with Android, YMMV.)

  • Open the Messages app, tap the three dots in the top right corner of the main screen, and select Settings
  • Select Chat features
  • Find Automatically resend as text (SMS/MMS) and toggle it on
  • When you toggle on the feature, you’ll get a warning that messages sent as SMS/MMS aren’t end-to-end encrypted but that messages will switch back when the chat features reconnect. If that’s okay with you, select Allow.

And that’s it! I like the security and media features that come with the Message app’s RCS protocol, but when I send a text, I definitely want it to go through asap. (Otherwise, I’d send an email — or maybe a nice snail mail note.) If you agree, you may want to make sure that this feature is toggled on.


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