At long last, you can get next-gen text messaging on your Android phone in the US without vendor-specific support or resorting to unofficial tricks. Google is rolling out Rich Communication Services (RCS) support to Android Messages users across the US. When it arrives, you'll be prompted to enable chat features in the app. RCS should be "broadly available" by the end of 2019, Google said.
This won't be thrilling if you prefer an alternative app (like the one from your phone manufacturer), but it might be worthwhile for the benefits when you're chatting with other RCS users. You can chat over WiFi, send high-quality media, see when people are typing and get read receipts. You can also easily manage and rename group chats.
There is a caveat: RCS doesn't support end-to-end encryption like Apple's iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Signal or similar services. Google has promised that it will only store messages while they're in transit, but the truly privacy-conscious won't want to use RCS for anything particularly sensitive. RCS is more an upgrade to SMS than its own messaging service, and that means dealing with similar privacy risks.