Rich Communications Services (RCS), and Why Google is Pushing Android Messages

Android Messages and Rich Communications Services (RCS)

With messaging apps taking over the world of social media, creating a global standard for messaging is becoming more critical by the day. Rich Communications Services, or RCS, is one such standard that is being adopted by carriers worldwide, and we should see it rolling out to consumers over the next year or so.

In the familiar world of SMS and MMS, RCS stands out as a unique initiative, allowing large image file sharing, group messaging and chat, location sharing and video calls, among its other features.

RCS tries to go far beyond traditional messaging apps in that it supports integration with contact apps, sharing of contacts and real-time information when you’re on a call.

The only hurdle to rolling this out worldwide is that both the sender’s and recipient’s app as well as network must necessarily support RCS. However, RCS is designed in a way that it fails-over to SMS or MMS if compatibility isn’t found in the recipient’s app, device or network.

The essential difference between other apps and RCS is that it is linked to your mobile number, so it doesn’t require additional permissions for video calls, group chats and so on. In phones of the future, RCS is expected to come right out of the box.

One of the main reasons for RCS is that Android needs a more unified messaging system like iMessage for iOS devices. Apple was able to bring in sweeping changes to iMessages with iOS 10.X versions because it’s comparatively simple to roll out major changes.

As such, it is in Google’s interest to push hard for RCS across multiple carriers, and that’s what they’re doing with Android Messages. In addition to carriers adopting a “Universal Profile” for RCS, which will allow them to seamlessly work for Android devices irrespective of the carrier in question, device makers also need to get on board.

As of now, the following device makers and carriers have hopped on the RCS bandwagon:

OEMs: LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, Nokia, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony and Wiko, along with Pixel and Android One devices.

Carriers:  Sprint, Rogers, Telenor, Orange, Deutsche Telekom, Globe, and Vodafone

According to information from Google, adding all the users on these carriers should bring RCS coverage to more than a billion people. But did you notice that Samsung is not part of the OEM list?

We’ve already seen why Apple might not have an interest in adopting such a standard (although they might, considering that iPhone owners need to have seamless communication with Android users as well), but why is Samsung not on the list? For that matter, what about three of the biggest carriers in the United States – AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile?

That’s exactly what Google is pushing for by rolling out Android Messages. With the rollout, Google hopes that big device makers and carriers will agree to come on board. The fallback, of course, is that RCS defaults to SMS/MMS when it senses incompatibility, as we saw.

One of the biggest potential benefits is that businesses will be able to interact more closely with their customers. For that purpose, Google is rolling out an Early Access Program so businesses can start sending RCS messages. These messages will now start coming from verified senders, as opposed to you seeing a short code number on your device’s messaging system.

Another key benefit is that device makers will be able to simply deploy Android Messages instead of having to create their own individual messaging apps.

The overall benefit of having something like Android Messages is that the Android ecosystem will slowly be weaned away from the older and often disparate SMS/MMS standards – at least, within the framework of Android’s user base, which already numbers in excess of 2.1 billion users.

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