Messaging needs, wants, and desires are evolving and SMS text messaging is showing its age.
Text messages don’t currently support long messages, encryption, advanced group messaging, and enhanced rich media.
These are all features that people have come to expect on platforms like iMessage, Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Signal.
So what replaces text messaging or modernizes it for the 21st century?
Google’s answer is rich communication services (RCS).
In this article I answer RCS questions including:
By the end, you’ll be up-to-date on the current state of rich communication services.
Read on for more.
RCS stands for Rich Communication Services. RCS is the new standard of messaging that will replace SMS text messaging and MMS. RCS makes it fast and easy to send more information in a message. This means richer text features, higher-resolution images and videos, and more.
RCS is part of what many carriers call the Advanced Messaging standard. It improves on the SMS text messaging functionality that comes as standard on most Android phones.
So what’s the difference between SMS and MMS messages and RCS? RCS brings rich functionality to text messaging.
This includes features only offered in OTT (over-the-top) messaging apps like iMessage, Messenger, WhatsApp, WeChat, and Signal.
But RCS offers these advanced messaging features at a larger scale across all carrier networks.
And there’s no need to download an extra app or create an account with a third-party service. RCS works automatically with the native messaging app that’s built into your Android phone.
But users do need to message from an RCS-compatible messaging app on an RCS-enabled phone.
What happens if you’re using a device that’s not on the RCS network? Your messages will "fall back" and get delivered as normal SMS or MMS messages.
|SMS & MMS||OTT Messaging Apps (Messenger||RCS|
|Messaging supported on all carrier cellular networks||✅||🚫||✅|
|Unlimited message sizes||🚫||✅||✅|
|Support for larger photo and video media files||🚫||✅||✅|
|Support for video calls||🚫||✅||✅|
|Verified message senders||🚫||✅||✅|
|Inline action buttons like “schedule appointment”||🚫||🚫||✅|
In fact, 67% of people prefer text messaging to email and voice calls. This is because texts are fast, short, and simple and everyone can send and receive text messages.
Many businesses and organizations already use business texting software like MessageDesk to:
And Juniper Research predicts that more and more businesses and organizations will text their audiences in the future.
They estimate that businesses and organizations will send 2.7 trillion SMS messages by 2022.
So RCS is important because it significantly improves and evolves all of the business text messaging that’s already taking place.
RCS upgrades all of the above conversational messaging experiences. It gives businesses and organizations far more features to interact with their audiences.
Instead of sending links in texts, a consumer can simply press a button in their native messaging app.
Below is a list of current and expected RCS features applicable to businesses and organizations.
Note: Even though RCS works on Galaxy smartphones running One UI, it isn’t compatible with every carrier’s network in every region.
Google officially completed its rollout of RCS across all carriers and networks as of 2020.
Before and since then, Google worked with telecom carriers to support RCS and commit to interoperability standards.
On October 24th, 2019, the major telecom carriers issued a joint press release. They all committed to widespread RCS implementation on all Android devices.
The carriers named this joint venture the “Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI)”.
Verizon issued a statement on this some time ago: "The owners of the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative decided to end the joint venture effort. However, the owners remain committed to enhancing the messaging experience for customers including growing the availability of RCS."
Now, RCS itself isn’t actually dead - just stalled (more on Google and Apple's RCS feud below).
Despite RCS’s slow pace of adoption, which of the carriers have adopted the RCS?
The RCS Universal Profile is a set of RCS standards. The goal of these standards is to make RCS messaging work across all networks, devices, and phone numbers.
To offer consistent RCS service, there needed to be standards. The Universal Profile gets this done by defining what RCS looks like for everyone.
The RCS Universal Profile standard debuted back in November 2016. Release 1.0 covered the core features.
Release 2.0 focused more on the developer end. This includes APIs, plug-in integration, improved authentication, app security, and entry routes for e-commerce applications.
Verizon’s Advanced Messaging (RCS) service does not currently support the Universal Profile.
Advanced Messaging is currently only available for certain Samsung Galaxy smartphones.
Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL users have more options with Chat. Verizon plans to extend support for Universal Profile to all their Android-powered devices.
AT&T calls its RCS implementation Advanced Messaging. Their implementation supports the RCS Universal Profile 1.0 with larger file transfer, enhanced group chat features, read receipts, and typing indicators.
Unfortunately, these features are only compatible with other eligible AT&T Advanced Messaging-capable smartphones.
Sprint was the first mainstream US carrier to implement the RCS Universal Profile.
Since their merger with T-Mobile, their network is up-to-date with the latest Universal Profile. All Sprint Android-powered devices can utilize RCS messaging
Since 2017, all new Android devices from Sprint have come preloaded with Messages by Google, which supports RCS.
T-Mobile now has an RCS implementation they call Advanced Messaging.
Advanced Messaging supports read receipts, typing indicators, and 10MB worth of multimedia file sharing.
As of June 2018, T-Mobile supports Universal Profile 1.0.
With Universal Profile 1.0, users get larger file transfers and 100 participant group chats. But this is currently limited between T-Mobile subscribers.
Yes, Google Fi supports RCS. RCS has been available to all Google Fi users on all Fi phones since early 2019. It also supports compatible Android phones brought to the network. This includes phones created by Samsung.
Note: you’ll still need to use the Messages by Google app. Messages supports communication between Google Fi subscribers and other RCS-enabled carriers.
Google and Apple’s RCS feud continually pits blue bubbles against green bubbles.
All iPhone users see this every time they message an Android user. Android user response return in iMessage as a green bubble. This indicates the user isn’t using iMessage.
But green bubbles won’t be going away any time soon.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, reiterated in September 2022 that Apple has no plans to support RCS.
Part of Google’s ongoing response is a PR campaign called “Get The Message”. Google’s statement is, “It’s time for Apple to fix texting.”
As the Apple RCS feud continues, Google’s latest volley is adding reaction support for iPhone texts.
Google rolled out an update to their Messages app in March 2022. That update enabled users to see reactions from iPhone users on text. It’s now added the capability to send reactions to iPhone users as well.
Texting was invented in 1984 and really took off in 2000. Text messages are now a part of our day-to-day lives.
The big change in SMS happened in 2007 with the introduction of the iPhone.
Ironically, RCS also got its start in 2007. But it hasn’t experienced traction until recently.
This is because back in 2007, carriers weren't on board. So RCS didn't gain much traction.
But this changed once Google entered the space.
Google wrangled all the carriers and purchased an RCS platform called Jibe Mobile in 2015.
Google then launched its own version of RCS in 2018. They called it Chat and in 2019 they began releasing it to all Android users.
Google got into RCS back in 2015 when it acquired Jibe Mobile.
Since then, they’ve taken on the responsibility of wrangling all of the carriers. They’ve also standardized the messaging protocols that tie into their own brand of RCS messaging called Chat.
Jibe’s value add was in the development of a Universal Profile compatible with cloud-based networks (Jibe Hub).
Before Jibe, there wasn’t an efficient or standardized way to integrate messaging solutions into the larger RCS framework.
Google’s purchase and development of the Jibe network fixed RCS’s early fragmentation problems. The Jibe Network made RCS implementations easier.
It gave carriers, OEM phone manufacturers, and third-party applications an easier way to connect to the global RCS network. This made it possible to ensure quick message delivery from any device, regardless of network or carrier.
In 2018, Google announced it had been working with major cell phone carriers to adopt RCS as a standard.
Google has long supported the idea of RCS. This led to the development of its own platform called Chat. Not to be confused with Hangouts Chat.
Chat is really the consumer-friendly name for RCS. Unlike Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, Chat isn’t another Android-based messaging app that you have to download.
Think of Chat as a bundled set of features. It comes installed out-of-the-box in every messaging app on all Android phones.
Chat also isn’t a Google service in the same way that G-suite is. It's a carrier-based service.
Google’s aim is to make Chat features (RCS) consistent for everyone across all networks and devices.
What you get with Chat are many standard features found in any other texting app. These include read receipts, typing indicators, full-resolution images, videos, gifs, and group texts.
Is your brand looking to build an RCS advanced messaging experience? Partner with MessageDesk to build the next generation of messaging to reach your audience.
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