What is RCS messaging and why is Google paying Apple to use it?

What is RCS messaging and why is Google paying Apple to use it?

  • The classic SMS that was born in the 90s just can’t handle the feature-rich environment of today’s digital world.
  • Not many apps, like Apple’s iMessage, rely on SMS, but Apple still offers the service outside of iMessage.
  • Google has moved to the relatively new RCS (Rich Communications System) and wants Apple to follow suit.

To say we all text or at least know about texting is an understatement. Most of us use apps like iMessage from Apple for iPhone users or WhatsApp to send our messages. However, this does not mean that the classic SMS (Short Message Service) service born in 1992 is dead, even if Google wanted it to.

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Stir up the RCS vs SMS debate and Google exposes Apple, trying to convince the digital giant to drop SMS altogether and join Android users in the RCS world. So what’s the difference, you may ask. While we may all see green and blue bubbles, there is more behind the scenes.

SMS Limits

160 characters max, this is an SMS. First appearing in 1992, SMS enabled mobile devices to do more than just talk. Introduce a whole new world of communication with text messages. SMS frontiers are byproducts of their era, even with the introduction of the Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) in the early 2000s that introduced the ability to send small files of multimedia (think low-resolution images or video snippets). After all this time, you can point out several shortcomings of SMS that are caused by age: a limit on the types of media supported; No messaging with Wi-Fi because it depends on a cellular connection; And a frustrating mess of additional issues, like difficulties with group chats, a lack of read receipts, and not having any of those great feedback points that let us know someone is preparing a new message.

Add the fact that SMS is not secure, and the billions of SMS messages sent every day in the US alone cause more concern about privacy than features.

“Due to the lack of encryption, hackers can look for vulnerabilities anywhere along the default path between the sender and receiver, which includes a large number of different network devices and computing systems on many different providers — one of them just needs to exploit via technical weakness, misconfiguration, or Social engineering or insider attack,” says Christopher Hoyle, director of technology at Wicker.

However, many of us send most of our messages in “over the top” applications such as WhatsApp, iMessage, WeChat, etc., which use Internet protocols rather than the cellular networks SMS uses to transmit messages. This adds a stronger layer of encryption and security, but also increases the ability to bring in feature-rich add-ons that make messaging more modern, even if it requires the person you’re messaging to use the same service you do.


So what is RCS?

He called it a rich communication system. Or RCS for short. The GSM Association, a trade group representing mobile networks, spent more than a decade tuning RCS before it officially debuted in 2016. It’s an attempt to provide an app-like service for what was the SMS market. And Google has embraced it, saying that Android phones now running RCS can easily send text messages as if they were in these feature-welcoming apps, send HD photos and videos, emoji reactions, and end-to-end encryption (for individuals, not groups). conversations), read receipts, and more.

Google believes that RCS solves problems associated with SMS.

The messaging battle between Google and Apple

A man using a smartphone in the kitchen

Getty Images

With its reliance on iMessage, Apple still offers SMS features when you send a message outside that app (for example, when Apple users resort to a green bubble chat with an Android user).

Google wants to change that, saying that Apple’s refusal to adopt modern RCS standards is holding back the world of texting. In fact, Google created an entire PR campaign –received the message– Briefing the effort.

“Everyone should be able to pick up their phone and enjoy a secure and up-to-date messaging experience.” Writes Elmar Weber, a Google engineer, as part of the campaign. “Anyone with a phone number should have that one, and that’s been a bit lost because we still find ourselves using outdated messaging systems.”

Of course, Google’s big push to get everyone to adopt RCS is self-serving, since it has adopted RCS for its messaging app. Apple was either silent or not committed to dropping RCS SMS. RCS critics say it may fix some problems, but it doesn’t solve them all. In fact, RCS comes with its own drawbacks, they say, such as the fact that end-to-end encryption only works in one-to-one conversations, and RCS has a tendency to open doors to spam.

Add to Apple’s blue bubble dominance, and the company has no real incentive to play well outside of its own realm — certainly not if it creates a smoother transition away from the iPhone to the Android device.

Of course, Apple isn’t the only behemoth that doesn’t run RCS. WhatsApp, the global leader in messaging apps outside of the US, is not compatible with RCS. Google is not following them.

Benedict Evans, independent technical analyst, wrote on Twitter That ‘when the company lost (and lost Google Messaging, but mostly to FB [Facebook’s parent company Meta owns WhatsApp]not Apple) for the company that won the adoption of a standard that no one seems to use, perhaps one should be a little cynical.”


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