Google and T-Mobile today announced a massive partnership, with the carrier agreeing to showcase a range of Google services on Android phones sold through the carrier’s network. The list includes official support for Google’s Android Messages (with RCS) app on all of T-Mobile’s Android phones, dropping T-Mobile’s own TV services for Google’s YouTube TV, presenting Google One as the default backup service and expand support and sales of Google hardware such as the Pixel.
T-Mobile and Google say the carrier has “the most Android smartphone customers in the US.” With this large partnership, those customers will have a phone that is more likely to show native Google services, rather than less well-supported services from the carrier or manufacturer.
It’s also a big win for Google, which in addition to Verizon will finally see another US carrier that has a real shot at promoting the Pixel line of phones. Pixel sales in the US have not reached any real critical mass, although they have fared better since Google started selling cheaper versions like the 3A and 4A. Verizon was the main partner early on, but it never materialized in great numbers.
But the biggest news is probably that T-Mobile is phasing out its Live, Live Plus and Live Zone services in favor of YouTube TV. T-Mobile customers will get $ 10 off that service, and there will be several other offers, including three months of YouTube Premium for free. More on that deal (and the surprising decision to phase out T-Mobile’s own TV streaming service) here from Chris Welch.
For messaging, it is another step forward in the long, complicated and poignant journey to normalize the next generation RCS standard in the US. Last January, some strange backroom transactions caused Samsung’s Galaxy S21 devices to ship with Samsung Messages as standard in the US, while most of the rest of the world got Android messages.
Samsung phones on T-Mobile will use Android Messages as the standard in the future, just like any other Android phone that T-Mobile sells. Google says the switch will take place by the end of the year.
Google is also providing a minor update on its ongoing efforts to support secure end-to-end encryption for RCS on Android messages. It reiterated that the beta test rollout has already begun and will “continue in 2021”. Fully encrypted chat for 1: 1 messages for RCS is currently only supported in Android messages, so T-Mobile’s decision to make it the default means more people will make it available to them.
Google and T-Mobile are also announcing plans to “ build a messaging business together. ” That’s a reference to RCS’s ability to be used for business chat, just as you can for some businesses with iMessage or WhatsApp. It’s one of the things that originally seemed like it could be a big driver for adoption as there is money to be made on the backend as companies pay for the service, but it’s not yet reaching its potential.
Last and perhaps least, T-Mobile is taking over Google One’s cloud storage as the default backup service for Android phones. Unlike TV, it doesn’t seem like any discounts are being offered. Carrier custom online storage solutions are a notoriously annoying piece of crapware installed on Android phones – just ask any Verizon or AT&T customer who bought their phone from their carrier.
When asked for comment, Google says it will not “disclose the financial terms of this deal.” Google and T-Mobile already have an existing relationship as T-Mobile is the network that supports Google’s MVNO, Google Fi. This new deal does not change anything for Fi customers.