What is RCS Messaging? Rich Communication Services Guide
Kyle Kuczynski
Kyle Kuczynski
MessageDesk Co-Founder & CMO
Updated: Nov 25, 2022

What is RCS? What Does RCS Mean in a Text Message? Learn About RCS Messaging

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:

  1. What RCS is - MMS and SMS vs RCS
  2. Why RCS is a big deal for consumer and business messaging
  3. What businesses and organizations can and will be able to do with RCS
  4. How to enable and disable RCS on Android and Samsung devices
  5. Which carriers and phones support RCS
  6. Rich communication services frequently asked questions

By the end, you’ll be up-to-date on the current state of rich communication services.

Read on for more.

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What is RCS Messaging?

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 vs. SMS & MMS vs. OTT Messaging Apps

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.

Two phones showing rich communications services
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 🚫
Read receipts 🚫
Typing indicators 🚫
Location sharing 🚫
Support for video calls 🚫
Verified message senders 🚫
Document sharing 🚫
Supports encryption 🚫
Inline action buttons like “schedule appointment” 🚫 🚫

Why RCS is a Big Deal for Consumer and Business Messaging

Text messaging has clear advantages and benefits.

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.

rcs-rich-communication-services-concept.png

What Businesses and Organizations Can and Will Be Able to Do With RCS

Below is a list of current and expected RCS features applicable to businesses and organizations.

1. Add branding and identity

  • Custom color palettes: Eventually businesses and organizations will be able to brand their RCS messaging experience with custom colors and styling.
  • Branded logos and icons: Businesses and organizations will be able to insert logos and icons for brand identity purposes.

2. Improve customer service and user experience

  • Suggested actions and quick reply buttons: Instead of having to click a link, RCS users can tap styled in-line buttons.
  • Embedded rich cards: Just like buttons, brands will able to insert fully styled cards into messages.
  • Location sharing and maps integrations: The location and map sharing process become more seamless with RCS.
  • Calendar and scheduling integrations: As with maps, businesses and organizations will eventually be able to integrate scheduling calendars with text messages.
  • Invoicing and payment integrations: At some point businesses and organizations will able to collect payments through Rich Communication Services messages.

3. Make messaging richer and more conversational

  • Read receipts: This feature allows both users to see if the other has read their message.
  • Typing indicators: Turning this on lets anyone see if the other party is typing.
  • Message reactions: If both messaging parties have RCS enabled, they can react to each other's messages with emojis.
  • Group chat: Group messages get created if all users texted have RCS. If one person is typing, all other users can see that.
  • Respond to individual messages: Soon RCS users will be able to respond to a specific message in a conversation.
  • Watch YouTube videos in-app: RCS users can watch YouTube videos in-app.
  • High-definition images and video: RCS increases the amount of data that can be shared, which improves the quality of shared images and video.
  • QR Codes: Businesses and organizations will be able to add QR codes directly in line with RCS-enabled messaging apps.
  • Voice-to-text audio messaging: Rich Communication Services messages support voice-to-text transcription.

4. Securely share documents and information

  • File transfers: RCS makes it possible to share documents and files because of its increased data transfer limits.
  • Verified business addresses and senders: RCS makes it possible to verify senders and recipients in a conversation.
  • End-to-end encryption: Encryption is enabled if both users have RCS. If RCS users see a lock icon next to read receipts on sent messages, then they’re using encryption.

How to Enable RCS Chat on Android Using Google Messages

  1. Open the Messages app on your Android device.
  2. Tap the three dots in the upper-right corner.
  3. Select the Settings option.
  4. Tap Chat features.
  5. Tap the Enable chat features toggle to turn it on.
  6. Tap Yes, I'm in.
  7. You will see a Connecting message in red text and then a Connected message in green text. Once you're connected, you can start sending RCS texts.

How to turn off RCS messaging on Android

  1. Open the Messages app on your Android device.
  2. Select the three-dot menu or your profile icon.
  3. Go to Settings.
  4. Tap Chat features.
  5. Set Enable chat features to off.
  6. In the pop-up window, tap Turn off.
  7. Chat features are now disabled on your device, and you're removed from existing RCS chat groups.

How to Enable RCS Samsung Messaging

  1. Enable Samsung messages RCS by opening the Settings app on your Galaxy phone.
  2. Then, access “Connections” and go to “More connection settings.”
  3. In this menu, tap the “Rich Communications” toggle ON to enable RCS messaging on your Samsung device.

Note: Even though RCS works on Galaxy smartphones running One UI, it isn’t compatible with every carrier’s network in every region.

Carriers and Devices That Support The RCS Universal Profile

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)”.

But this initiative is now largely dead.

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).

RCS Universal Profile

Despite RCS’s slow pace of adoption, which of the carriers have adopted the RCS?

For starters, you need to know about the GSMA's (GSM Association) preferred version of RCS. They call it the Universal Profile.

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.

It included:

  • Contact discovery across regions
  • Messaging
  • Group chat
  • File transfer
  • Audio messaging
  • Video sharing
  • Multi-device
  • Enriched calling
  • Location sharing
  • Live sketching

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

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.

Verizon RCS Capable Phones:

  • Samsung Galaxy S9
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
  • Google Pixels

AT&T

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.

AT&T RCS Capable Phones (LG):

  • LG K40
  • LG Prime 2
  • LG Stylo 5
  • LG G8x ThinQ
  • LG V35
  • LG G8

AT&T RCS Capable Phones (Samsung):

  • Samsung A10e
  • Samsung Galaxy Note8
  • Samsung Galaxy Note9
  • Samsung Galaxy Note10
  • Samsung Galaxy Note10+
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
  • Samsung Galaxy, S7 active
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
  • Samsung Galaxy S9
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
  • Samsung Galaxy S10e
  • Samsung Galaxy S10
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+

T-Mobile / Sprint

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.

T-Mobile RCS Capable Phones:

  • Samsung Galaxy S7
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 Metro-variance
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 Active
  • Samsung Galaxy S8 Metro-variance
  • Note 8
  • Note 9
  • OnePlus 6T

Rich Communication Services (RCS) Frequently Asked Questions

Does Google Fi Support RCS?

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.

Will Apple ever support RCS?

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.

imessage-vs-sms-mms-1200x455.jpeg

When was RCS invented?

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.

What is Google Jibe?

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.

What is Chat?

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.

Ready to Build the Best RCS Messaging App?

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Final thoughts and next steps

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.

Connect with us to learn more about our RCS strategic partnership.