Communication technology has evolved in the past few decades, especially text message communications. From mailing letters to sending short text messages, emails, multimedia messages, and now RCS Chats.
Due to the constantly evolving nature of text technology, the old methods of texting don’t perform the way we want them to. For starters, the SMS service does not support group messaging, has no encryption, and doesn’t allow you to send animated stickers or emojis that people usually send over Facebook Messenger, iMessage, WhatsApp, etc.
Regardless of the restrictions like cellular connection and character limits, SMS text messaging is still a universal standard and people’s favorite. It’s like what others say, “old habits never die”.
Also, according to a Statista report, US citizens have been exchanging SMSs and MMSs over 2 trillion times a year for the period of 2018 to 2021.
(Image Source: Statista)
Despite this popularity, many people want more out of their texting as they are becoming habitual to it on feature-rich messaging apps. To compete with these apps, smart device manufacturers, carriers, and other governing agencies developed Rich Communication Services (RCS) chat protocol.
In this article, we’ll explain what RCS messaging is, how it works, and how businesses can use it to their advantage. So, let’s first start with understanding RCS messaging:
What is RCS Messaging?
RCS, also known as SMS+, Advanced Messaging, SMSoIP, Message+, etc., is a modern take on text messaging. It’s designed with features like group chat, video, audio, & high-res image exchange, read receipts, and others.
The protocol incorporates features from Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage, etc. to look and function just like them with real-time viewing. Experts in telecommunications have predicted that RCS chat may replace SMS in the future for text message marketing.
While we can’t say whether this may come true or not, we can surely say that it’ll transform the way people communicate through text messaging. RCS will take SMS marketing a notch higher with popular features that people already use with other messaging apps and SMS automation tools.
RCS has now become a standard on Android devices as Google offers Messages as the default text messaging app. The app includes RCS chat functionality that works seamlessly on most Android devices.
Moreover, a partnership between Samsung and Google allows RCS features to work flawlessly between their respective messaging apps.
RCS vs SMS: Differences
Consider RCS as an evolution of SMS functionality with next-gen features. SMS or Short Message Service is a standard messaging protocol capable of sending text messages. Nearly every phone, including features and smartphones and even iPhones, had SMS as the default method of sending short text communications.
However, it has limited capabilities and relies solely on the cell connection. Sending images and video attachments isn’t available or has a limitation of 3.5 MB per file. Moreover, there’s no option for receiving read receipts or delivery alerts.
Even with such limitations, SMS is still the universal standard for sending and receiving text messages. It enables you to send texts to anyone in the world as long as you have their phone number. However, it is advised to not send any personal information due to inadequate encryption and security level.
Rich Communication Services (RCS), on the other hand, offers a great visual experience with built-in security and privacy for texting. Such practices are essential, especially for business texting services to ensure their private information doesn’t get compromised.
Another great advantage of RCS is it has minimal restrictions on the quality and size of the content sent or received between devices. Android devices come with high-res cameras today and without the RCS, it’d be difficult to share digital content across devices.
Users with RCS-enabled devices can send and receive messages with other RCS-enabled devices. Google Messages is one such example of RCS chat which allows users to send and receive messages with minimal restrictions.
Here’s a comparison table to help you better understand the differences between SMS vs RCS:
|Sharing location, documents, videos, audio, etc.||Yes||No|
|Sharing photos||Yes (high-quality)||Yes (low-quality)|
|File size limit||Up to 100 MB||Up to 3.5 MB|
|Character limit||No||Up to 160 characters|
|In-call & post-call features||Yes||No|
|Cell network required||Yes||Yes|
|Data connection required||Yes||No|
How Does RCS Messaging Protocol Works?
A group of industry promoters in 2007 formed the Rich Communication Suite industry initiatives, which was later brought under the GSM association — a trade group association. Here, the RCS steering committee was commissioned for specifying the definition, testing, and integration of the services in the app suite.
During the following decade, it released several iterations of the RCS specification. Also, Google joined the ship and started working with major cell phone carriers worldwide to offer RCS with Android. The result of this harmonious collaboration resulted in a Chat protocol, which is based on the RCS Universal Profile.
RCS Universal Profile is a global standard to implement RCS. It enables network subscribers from various carriers belonging to different countries to communicate with each other.
Google then teamed up with other stakeholders to add helpful features in Chat such as branded information, content sharing, sending live updates, boarding passes, upcoming trips, and others. The protocol is developed to be hardware agnostic, meaning it can work across several devices seamlessly.
It’s not a messaging app per se, it’s a protocol and is only available on Google and Samsung’s Message apps. This may seem restrictive to only these two but most Android phones ship with Google Messages as default. Currently, there are 421 million active monthly users and 1.2 billion RCS-ready devices.
In order for the chat to work on any device, it should be supported by the carrier and device manufacturer. To send and receive messages using the RCS protocol, both devices should be RCS-ready and support the same. The protocol also allows you to send and receive high-res photos and videos or chat with people over Wi-Fi or mobile data.
Just launch the Google Messaging app on your Android smartphone and turn on the Chat functionality from the settings. Once done, the text messages will now get delivered through the new protocol considering both parties have RCS-enabled devices.
Current Status of RCS on Android and iOS Devices
RCS messaging is globally available for most Android devices that have opted for Google Messages as their default messaging app. When signing into these devices or opening a Messages app, users are asked to turn on Chat functionality for an enhanced messaging experience with RCS.
Once enabled, you can send videos, audio, and other content types, even embed Google Photos links in the RCS chat conversation. Before June 2021, the RCS protocol supported only client-to-server encryption but now supports end-to-end encryption.
Today, over 60 organizations including mobile operators, carriers, and device manufacturers support the RCS protocol.
(Image Source: GSMA)
Talking about RCS support for iOS devices, Apple hasn’t made any official announcement and doesn’t seem to consider including it in its platform. Since iPhone’s iMessage already includes several features of RCS, Apple is in no mood to roll out something they already have.
Further, Apple wants their users to keep using the iMessage app and not a third-party tool that makes their own app obsolete. This may just be speculation of why Apple doesn’t want to include RCS support for iOS as nothing officially has been communicated from their side. Thus, iOS users would have to stick to their iMessage app for the time being.
How RCS Can Help in Business Messaging?
RCS can prove to be a powerful tool for business messaging that helps marketers and organizations to engage their audiences more interactively. It has the potential to go beyond just simple and short messaging to more streamlined and meaningful messaging to connect with people on a human level.
Here are a few ways RCS messaging can help businesses to improve relationships with their clients:
Send Real-time Update
Businesses can send order updates, boarding passes, appointment reminders, seat selection, and many other types of messaging with RCS. Moreover, you can do so while sending multimedia content to boost the user experience of your text messaging.
It sounds similar to the MMS service but it’s way more flexible and interactive. You can send GIFs, stickers, videos, rich cards, and others through RCS protocol directly to users’ SMS inboxes.
Since RCS messaging does not have the standard 160-character limit of SMS service, you can write long and informative text messages. Further, RCS offers more flexibility to include your brand’s tone and voice in the message than just finding abbreviations to words.
You can also send PDFs, product carousels, calendar scheduling, and other documents that allow customers to take immediate action.
RCS messages can include clickable buttons that act as Call-to-Action buttons to allow users to take action from within the messaging app. Integrating the CTA button will enable users to perform certain actions such as calling you or doing anything else.
This eliminates the need for them to visit your site or open a web browser to find information about your brand. It’s a frictionless process that’ll impact your conversions positively.
Conclusion – Is RCS Messaging the Future?
Even though RCS is great on paper, it still lacks the universality that SMS currently offers because it’s administered by external developers. This lack of universality will turn into the reason that RCS may not replace SMS service completely.
SMS may continue to hold the crown of standard messaging protocol for the foreseeable future. However, RCS can enhance the way customers interact with your text messages and can open new doors for more marketing opportunities.
Though it may never replace SMS, RCS can still exist alongside it and may go more mainstream in the future thanks to backing from Google.