I hate that people think that RCS is a Google product. It’s not, and I’m sick and tired of seeing this stupid assumption online. I know why this is the case, Google used to refer to this as Chat from Google Jibe, but has pivoted to calling it what it actually is: pure RCS based on the GSMA’s Universal Profile. But… what is RCS? Let me back up a bit.
Short Messaging Service (“SMS”) and Multimedia Messaging Service (“MMS”) are the old, antiquated standards from the GSM Association (“GSMA”). It’s what you’ve likely been using primarily for over 30 years now. Those same folks, the ones who brought you SMS and MMS, also brought you Rich Communication Services (“RCS”).
RCS allows for end-to-end encryption (using the Signal Protocol) so your messages are secure, high quality media sharing (no more blurry videos!), the ability to leave a group chat/thread, as well as typing indicators and read receipts. While I don’t necessarily agree with Google’s approach to marketing those last two as killer features iPhone users care about (I personally turn both off), I can see where they’re coming from.
Google hasn’t had a great track record with messaging apps, it’s true and I am not saying that it isn’t. (I mean, remember Hangouts? Hangouts was awesome!) However, Google Messages (which I believe was known as Android Messages at one point) has been around in some form since 2014, and has since become the preloaded replacement for carrier-provided apps like Verizon Messages here in the US. It’s here to stay for many years to come, and anyone who says otherwise is probably living under a rock.
It’s about leveling the playing field between every mobile operating system, iOS and Android, and even Linux, too, if you really want to go there. With the Universal Profile, any platform can enable RCS to be interoperable with every other platform, with just a tiny bit of elbow grease. Since Google has done this for their platform — Android — all Apple would need to do is implement the feature into their platform’s Messages app.
Would this diminish iMessage’s value? Absolutely not.
Is Apple right to completely write off RCS, like this completely out-of-touch article from Digital Trends’s Michael Allison suggests? NO! (Respect to the author, but it misses the point entirely.)
iMessage has a lot more going for it than RCS does. Built-in applications, games, Apple Cash person-to-person payments, etc. are what actually set it apart, despite what Apple’s marketing would want you to believe as a consumer. SMS and MMS are inherently less secure, and goes against Apple’s own mission of building privacy and security into “every product.” They’re relying on standards from the 90s that haven’t seen many updates since. RCS is the better alternative here, period, end of discussion.
The fact of the matter is that, eventually, RCS will have to replace the heavily insecure standard as the primary, with SMS/MMS going to a strict fallback method. I don’t even think it’s a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. With Google saying there are now 800 million active devices with it enabled on Android alone, I could see that happening sooner rather than later.
Apple needs to upgrade their users to RCS. It’s not an iMessage replacement, it’s not even close to being one, but that wasn’t the goal.
The goal was to offer a better alternative to the old, insecure tech of yesterday.
The goal was to offer something modern that was made for how we communicate today, not 30 years ago.
The goal was to allow you to leave a group chat.
The goal was to finally fix something that has been broken for a long time.
RCS does all of that and just a tiny bit more, but does NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, encroach on iMessage’s territory. Not in the slightest.
P.S.: if you’re still using Verizon Messages or Samsung Messages on your Android device, now might be the time to consider switching to Google’s RCS client… most carriers recommend that now and you’ll gain access to RCS.