Mobile text messaging has long been an essential source of income for telephone carriers around the globe. Metered charges for sending SMS and MMS are still in place for many users. Accordingly, application based messengers including WhatsApp (used by more than 1 billion people), Facebook Messenger, LINE, iMessage, and WeChat have grown in popularity.
Today, Google and industry group GSMA announced an initiative to better rival these applications using an improved version of SMS called Rich Communications Services (RCS). The new standard guarantees better group chat features, high-resolution photograph and file sharing, video calling services, and read receipts, a long-term feature of application based messengers.
Implementations of RCS in the U.S. have included AT&T and T-Mobile, with the former currently supporting what they call “Advanced Messaging” on the Galaxy S5 Mini and S6 Active, and T-Mobile extending RCS to the Galaxy S5, S6, Note 5 and Edge, LG K7 and V10. Microsoft has also included support for the standard inside its stock Messaging application on Windows 10 Mobile while using the two carriers.
In light of the moderate uptake to the new standard, the declaration today describes how RCS will be further unified to speed Google’s development under Android, while accelerating testing and interoperability between carriers (though Verizon and Sprint are missing from the group). Regardless of Google’s contribution, RCS stays open to other operating systems. The organization is focused on giving an open source version of the client, as of now named Jibe, and also developer APIs to “enhance the customer experience”.
Throughout the years, the proliferation of messaging services has made a battle of systems and standards. In order to tame the confusion, there have been efforts by applications to include SMS. Apple’s iMessage has always supported both SMS and its own particular Apple-only service. Facebook Messenger for Android is right now testing SMS integration and now allows non-Facebook members to use the application; however, while Google Hangouts on Android includes SMS support, the application is now curiously moving to eject SMS for pointing its users toward Google’s largely unknown Messenger application to handle carrier-based messaging.