T-Mobile soups up text messaging, but for only one phone to start

The upgrade brings text messaging nearly on par with the features found in third-party instant messaging apps like WhatsApp and iMessage.

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T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray calls the company's new text message feature a "wake-up call for the old carriers." CNET/James Martin

T-Mobile on Wednesday introduced "Advanced Messaging," which adds a set of bells and whistles to the traditional text message.

Advanced Messaging, which T-Mobile said runs on a standard that any carrier can use, allows you to fire off group messages or have a near-real-time chat with another person. You can also share high-resolution photos and short videos, and see when your message has been delivered and read. It's currently available, but on only one model of smartphone for now.

The features more closely align text messaging with popular third-party instant messaging apps, including Apple's iMessage or Facebook's WhatsApp. Advanced Messaging is available on only a single smartphone: the Samsung Galaxy Grand Prime. Popular smartphones such as the Galaxy S6 or iPhone 6 won't be supported yet.

That means that you can take advantage of these capabilities only when using this specific device on T-Mobile.

T-Mobile said it was working to get more phones using Advanced Messaging, which runs on an industry standard called Rich Communications Services. The company will bring the feature to the Galaxy S5 and Galaxy S6 through a software update.

"For now, this is something you can only get at T-Mobile -- though I expect our announcement will be a wake-up call for the old carriers to get moving with RCS, so customers can enjoy these next-gen services working across wireless providers," T-Mobile Chief Technology Officer Neville Ray said in a blog post.

T-Mobile declined to comment on whether the iPhone would get the feature, deferring to Apple. The spokeswoman noted that since it was built off of an industry standard, she would expect it to be a standard feature on new smartphones sold.

Apple wasn't immediately available for comment.

Correction, 2:21 p.m. PT: The original version of this story mistakenly said the HTC Desire 626 and Alcatel OneTouch Pixi7 Tablet would work with the new text messaging feature.