RCS (Rich Communication Services) is intended to replace the use of SMS/MMS. Unfortunately, moving millions of people is no small feat.
As of the past week, Google has flipped the switch for RCS support in Google Messenger. However, only Sprint and Project Fi will be the first carriers to launch RCS messaging with Google. Although Google says it plans on “launching RCS with more partners in the coming months,” it will sadly still be awhile till most of us even witness any of these new features.
Before we talk about the issues with the global adoption of RCS, let’s discuss the features.
A little while ago, Google acquired the company Jibe, intending to adopt a new, universal standard for carrier messaging. With Google’s version of RCS, you’re able to share high-res photos and larger files, chat (properly) with a group, know when messages are read, or even make video calls (though, I don’t think this is live just yet). Wi-Fi and cellular data messaging are even feasible. All of these are welcoming changes.
Google brands RCS as “enhanced features” in its Messenger app. To get these benefits, you must turn off battery optimizations and let Messenger run in the background.
Real cool, huh? Well, not so much…
The RCS Mirage
So, you may be thinking, T-Mobile and AT&T have already launched RCS messaging, right? Yes. They have. But their versions don’t work with Google’s RCS. And AT&T’s doesn’t work with T-Mobile’s, and vice versa. Great.
It won’t be that you can’t text people on these other networks if you have RCS, though. You just won’t be getting all the benefits because you won’t be using RCS—you’ll be using SMS. Basically, if you’re on Google’s RCS and the person you’re talking to is also on Google’s RCS, then it’ll be a full-fledged RCS conversation. But, if you’re on Google’s RCS and the other person is on basic SMS or on a different version of RCS, it’ll just be a regular ol’ SMS conversation.
Another issue is that mobile carriers would just love to charge a premium for their RCS messaging even if all customers got it. In other words, even if you got basic RCS messaging for AT&T, they could still charge you if you wanted to have, say, Wi-Fi messaging, high-res photos, etc. You get the point.
On the other hand, we have Apple. And they have absolutely no reason to adopt RCS ever. Yes, we’d love for them to be “nice” for once and just co-operate to launch it within their Messages app, but it’s going to be a hassle. If RCS brings a lot of the cool iMessage features to all phones, then Apple’s basically just handing sales to Android and other OEMs.
While Google’s version of RCS is very promising, it’s going to take awhile to convince carriers to adopt it. And you know just how slow and reluctant carriers can be when it comes to things. *sigh*
On a good note, though, because Sprint is the first major U.S. carrier to launch with Google’s RCS, it will hopefully bring a positive message to all other carriers to at the least consider adopting it. Sprint also plans on launching Google’s RCS on all of its Android smartphones by pre-installing the Google Messenger app and making it the default messaging app.
This is all great news for the beginning of RCS, but we’ll just have to hope and pray all these stubborn carriers (and Apple!) adopt Google’s RCS and not their own. After all, all we want is just one, universal messaging experience. Let’s hope Google can accomplish this.