The adoption of the Rich Communications Services standard is an initiative in the mobile industry that aims to upgrade the outdated SMS experience, the one that fails to take advantage of a modern smartphone’s capabilities. Current user needs rely more on media sharing and features like enhanced read receipts and group conversations, which is why more and more users migrated towards modern day IMs. RCS aims to change that by bringing these features to SMS, giving users a better and more expressive platform than before.
Google had earlier announced their cooperation with Sprint to launch RCS Messaging on the US carrier on the Jibe RCS Cloud Platform. This was the beginning step in upgrading SMS to keep up with current needs. Today, Google is announcing a bunch of new changes with regards to RCS Messaging on Android.
The first change comes to us in the form of a rename for the messaging app that was a crucial element in the push for RCS Messaging. Messenger for Android is now known as “Android Messages“, and will serve as the default RCS app on Android. The app will be found preloaded on devices from RCS supported carriers, but can also be downloaded and updated from the Google Play Store on any Android device.
You would need to be on a carrier that supports RCS on its universal profile to take advantage of RCS services though. In case you are not, you can still fall back to standard SMS and MMS messaging.
After their partnership with Sprint, Google went on to bring RCS messaging on Rogers in Canada and Telenor in Europe and Asia. Now, the same RCS experience will be made available to subscribers on Orange, Deutsche Telekom and Globe (Philippines). These carriers will now be preloading Android Messages as their standard native messaging app.
Google’s collaboration is also extending to Vodafone, with the Vodafone Group RCS service now supporting Android Messages. The service has already been launched across 10 markets for Vodafone subscribers globally. Combined with previously mentioned partners, the RCS service collaboration has been extended to more than 1 Billion subscribers worldwide.
The collaborating partners are also committed to interconnecting through the Jibe RCS hub. This will allow RCS messages to be delivered to subscribers across carrier networks while still retaining their functionality and features.
Google is also extending beyond carriers and including mobile device manufacturers into the fold. This ensures that Android users can continue to access all the features of the RCS Messaging platform. Android Messages will be made the default messaging app for Android devices from a whole list of Android OEMs such as LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, HMD Global (Nokia), Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony and Wiko. Pixel and Android One devices will also be preloading Android Messages.
Business Messages on RCS
SMS has not only stagnated for the needs of users, but also for businesses. The lack of a universal standard did force several businesses to continue providing standard plain-text information through SMS, and then inviting their users onto their Web or App interfaces for further interaction.
With the industry-wide push to RCS, businesses will also be able to take advantage of the improvements. As Google explains by way of an example, a message from your airline reminding you to check in for a flight can now take advantage of rich media and interactivity to provide a full check-in experience, complete with boarding pass, visual flight updates, and terminal maps on demand, all directly within the messaging experience.
Google is creating an Early Access Program to allow businesses to learn and build with the new technology and become stakeholders. Brands that are already on board include Virgin Trains, Walgreens, Amber Alert Europe, Baskin-Robbins, BlaBlaCar, FICO, Gamestop, G2A.com, IHG, LexisNexis Risk Solutions, Naturas, Papa Murphy’s, Philips, Porto Seguro, Sky, SONIC Drive-In, Subway, and Time Inc.
Demonstrations of business-oriented RCS Messaging will be showcased at Mobile World Congress in the coming days.
Google is pushing hard on RCS Messaging as the new standard for SMS communications. But despite their push, a few big names from the mobile industry are not to be found. For instance, US carriers like Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are not in the list as collaborative partners, and neither are mobile stalwarts Apple and Samsung (and comparatively smaller names like Xiaomi too). For subscribers on carriers that do not follow the universal profile and for devices that do not have a RCS-supported Messaging solution installed, RCS messages will fall back to SMS and MMS.
SMS continues to form a crucial means of communication in regions where the carrier does not charge obscene rates. In other regions, Instant Messengers that rely on Internet connectivity are much more popular. Whichever region you belong to, there is no downside to Google pushing for a universal standard and an upgrade to the SMS experience.
What are your thoughts on Google’s push for RCS? Will the mobile industry be able to achieve a universal standard for rich communication? Let us know in the comments below!