What is RCS? Rich Communication Services Explained
What is RCS? (Rich Communication Services)
RCS stands for Rich Communication Services. This new standard of messaging replaces SMS text messaging and MMS. RCS makes it fast and easy to send group texts, share high-resolution images and video, and receive updates.
How is RCS Different from Text Messaging?
The difference between RCS and SMS text messages is that RCS adds features that MMS and SMS text messages don’t have. RCS turns text messaging into a more interactive, actionable, feature-rich conversational experience. It brings the rich functionality offered in messaging apps like iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp directly to the native messaging app built into your phone.
The Differences Between RCS, SMS and MMS:
- RCS messages aren't limited to 160 characters.
- RCS sends higher quality picture messages than SMS.
- RCS shows read receipts and typing indicators like iMessage.
- RCS adds more dynamic group chat features.
- RCS integrates location sharing.
- RCS supports video calls by default.
- RCS allows you to brand your messages.
- RCS verifies message senders.
- RCS receives and sends documents.
- RCS incorporates action buttons into messages.
How Does RCS Work?
RCS is part of what many carriers call the Advanced Messaging standard. It improves on text messaging functionality that comes with most phones by default.
Think of Rich Communication Services messaging as being similar to mobile apps like Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WeChat, and WhatsApp. All of these apps have read receipts, typing indicators and better ways to share media. RCS offers the same kind of advanced messaging functionality, but at a larger scale.
The difference between RCS and other mobile messaging apps is that the software to support RCS comes built into your phone. It’s ready to go out of the box. It works just like your native text messaging app. With RCS, there’s no need to download other third-party apps. No need to set up user accounts, sign in, or invite other friends to connect.
However, to send and receive Rich Communications Services messages, everyone needs to be on the same compatible messaging app and network with RCS enabled phones. Currently, if you’re using a device that’s not on the RCS network, your messages will fall default to SMS or MMS.
When Was RCS Invented?
As a technology, SMS (short message service) has been around for over 25 years. The big change happned in 2007 with the introduction of the iPhone. Text messages are now a part of our day-to-day lives. RCS also got its start in 2007. But it hasn’t experienced traction until recently.
Back in 2007, carrier weren't on board. RCS didn't gain much traction. This changed once Google entered the space. They wrangled all the carriers and in 2015 purchased an RCS platform called Jibe Mobile. In 2018, Google then launched its own version of RCS. They called it Chat and in 2019 they began releasing it to all Android users.
Now, the evolution in text messaging is underway. The GSMA projects that 86% of all smartphones will support RCS by 2020. Furthermore, all of the big carriers will fully integrate RCS into their messaging by 2020.
This means that customers are going to start seeing the next generation of text messaging very soon. Customers and businesses will gain more interactive, feature-rich opportunities to schedule appointments, pay bills, and much more.
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How Does RCS Affect Business Text Messaging?
Many companies use basic Short Message Service (SMS) apps to support customers, ask for feedback, and reward loyalty with special offers. SMS is a great way to reach your customers. It's because text messages are short and simple. They also come built-in to the native messaging app that lives on a phone’s home screen.
Juniper Research predicts that businesses will continue to send text messages to their customers. They estimate that businesses will send 2.7 trillion SMS messages by 2022. RCS will significantly improve on all of the text messaging taking place between businesses and customers. This is because it upgrades the conversational experience.
RCS also standardizes and centralizes the now fragmented and crowded conversational messaging space. Many feature-rich apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger all compete with iMessage, Android Messages, WeChat, Slack, and many others. RCS makes text messaging just as engaging as those and many other messaging apps. But what it provides is far greater reach and accessibility inherent to SMS & MMS.
What Can You Do With RCS?
Millions of businesses already rely on SMS to communicate. They use text messaging for credit card fraud alerts, flight status updates, and package delivery notifications to customers. Starting in 2020, RCS will expand these types of capabilities. Below are a list of current and expected RCS features that businesses will be able to utilize.
Add Branding and Business Verification
- Custom color palettes
- Branded logos and icons
- Verified business addresses and senders
Improve Customer Service and User Experience:
- Suggested action buttons
- Quick button replies
- Embedded rich cards
- Location sharing
- Maps integrations
- Calendar and Scheduling integrations
- Invoicing and payment integrations
Make Messaging Richer and More Conversational:
- Multi-device messaging, voice, and video
- Read receipts
- Typing indicators
- 1-to-1 and group chat administration
- High-definition images and video
- QR Codes
- Voice to text audio messaging
- Digital assistant integrations
Share Documents and Information:
- File transfers
- Verified sending
- Live shared sketching sessions
RCS Universal Profile
The GSMA's (GSM Association) preferred version of RCS is called the Universal Profile. The Universal Profile is a set of RCS standards that all of the major carriers and phone manufacturers have already agreed on.
The goal with these standards is to make RCS messaging work across all networks. To offer consistent RCS service, there needed to be standards. The Universal Profile gets this done by defining what RCS looks like for everyone. This is important when it comes to core features, APIs, plug-in integrations, privacy controls, spam protection, authentication, app security and more.
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 share, multi-device, enriched calling, location sharing, and live sketching.
Release 2.0 focused more on the developer end, with APIs, plug-in integration and improved authentication, app security, and entry routes for e-commerce applications.
Which Carriers Support RCS
On October 24th 2019, the big four carriers issued a joint press release committing to wide-spread RCS implementation on all Android devices in 2020. The carries named this joint venture the “Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI)”.
However, the press release gives no specific timeline for full RCS support. Until we get more details on this initiative, below is a description of what each carrier supports in terms of RCS and the Universal Profile.
Sprint was the first mainstream US carrier to implement RCS. Their network is up-to-date with the latest Universal Profile and all Sprint Android-powered devices can utilize RCS messaging to communicate with Sprint customers and non-Sprint carriers around the world. Since 2017, all new Android devices from Sprint have come preloaded with Android Messages.
Sprint RCS Capable Phones: All Android devices officially released on Sprint.
T-Mobile 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 transfer and 100 participant group chats, but this is currently limited between T-Mobile subscribers. T-Mobile is working with Google to implement newer Universal Profile standards soon, but as of November 2019, it hasn't implemented this globally.
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
AT&T also 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+
Verizon’s Advanced Messaging (RCS) service does not currently support the Universal Profile. Advanced Messaging is currently only available for the Samsung Galaxy S9/S9+ smartphones but will be added to more devices in the future. 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 Pixel 3
- Google Pixel 3 XL
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 such as phones created Samsung (such as the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy Note 9). You’ll need to use the Android Messages app for communication between Google Fi subscribers and other carriers who support the Universal Profile.
Google RCS Capable Phones: All Google Fi phone variants and compatible Android devices brought to the network.
How to Enable RCS on Your Android Device
- Download Google’s Messages app.
- Open the Messages app.
- Tap the vertical dot settings button at the top-right of the app.
- Tap Settings.
- Tap Chat features.
- If “Enable chat features” toggle is off, tap once to turn RCS on.
- RCS is already enabled if “Enable chat features” toggle is on.
Does Apple iOS Support RCS?
No - Apple iOS doesn’t currently support RCS, but this could change in 2020.
iMessage is not currently RCS capable. Apple even uses this fact as a selling point. Because you can't change the default text messaging app on an iPhone all messages between an iPhone and everything else fall back to normal text messages.
iMessage already has many of the features that come backed in to RCS. The problem is that they don’t port over to non-iPhone users. As an iPhone user you see this every time you message someone and the response comes back as a green bubble, indicating the user you’re messaging isn’t using iMessage.
For RCS to work on iPhones, Apple will need to add RCS universal profile capabilities to iMessage. This could all start happening in 2020. Since October 2018 Apple has supposedly been in discussions with the GSMA over bringing RCS to iOS, according to a slide from an October GSMA event.
What we do know is that the big carriers are adopting RCS in 2020. Google is also pushing forward full-force with Chat since its acquisition of Jibe. This means the messaging landscape is changing and it’s only a matter of time before Apple adopts and integrates RCS with iOS.
While Apple does not currently offer any RCS capabilites, they are expanding Quick Look. Quick Look offers businesses the opportunity to utilize AR (augmented reality). The advanced feature allows retailers to sell items directly to customers in a message as augmented reality.
Google and Jibe Mobile
Google got into RCS back in 2015 when it acquired a company called Jibe Mobile. Since then, they’ve taken on the responsibility of wrangling all of the carriers and standardizing the messaging protocols that tie into their own brand of RCS messaging called Chat.
Jibe’s big value add to Google was in the development of a Universal Profile-compatible cloud-based network (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 and it’s push for the adoption of the Universal Standard 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 and ensure quick message delivery from any device, regardless of network or carrier.
It also means that applications like SnapDesk have another way to implement RCS, instead of having to rely on Google’s infrastructure. This is useful when ensuring consistent service in countries outside of the U.S.
In 2018, Google announced it had been working with every major cell phone carrier in the world to adopt RCS as a standard messaging protocol. Google has long supported the idea of RCS, leading 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 that come 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 in spearheading this movement at the carrier level is to make Chat features (RCS) consistent for everyone across all networks and devices.
Chat is currently available on Android Messages and Samsung Messages. While this may seem limiting, the majority of smartphone manufacturers ship their devices with Android’s default messaging app.
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.
Some Other Things to Know About Chat:
Chat isn’t quite as Secure as iMessage. Apple’s iMessage set the standard with end-to-end messaging encryption, making it hard for someone to hack into your phone and see your messages.
While Chat does not support end-to-end encryption, that doesn’t mean it isn’t secure. Apple may have gone the extra mile to keep user data protected, but you can expect other 3rd party RCS providers, like SnapDesk to support more advanced levels of messaging encryption.
Chat is coming to desktops and PCs in 2020. Syncing Chat and RCS features to your desktop will make it easier for businesses to communicate with customers from any device. Third party applications like SnapDesk, will enable users to send messages from their laptop or desktop, and receive messages across multiple devices.
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