For some time now, we’ve heard about RCS – Rich Communication Services – and its impending future of being the replacement for standard texting. I’ve personally held onto hope for years that carriers and phone makers would all magically get on the same page with all this and finally ditch SMS/MMS and replace it with the much-more-capable RCS tech. After all, RCS is basically IM for the masses, giving the utilitarian SMS/MMS experience a jolt of better features and better usability across the board.
Think of all the stuff that sucks about texting and all the stuff that is great about IMs like Allo, Facebook Messenger, iMessage or WhatsApp. Think about the terribleness that is group texts. Think about the trashy photos and videos that get sent EVERY DAY over SMS/MMS. Think about the lack of read receipts. Texting, in it’s current form, feels like it is from the stone ages and I – along with many others – hate using it.
But I still use it. Why? Because it is the one messaging system everyone has and uses. As or more prolific than email, texting is the thing you fall back on when all other forms of communication stop. The utilitarian nature of it is the reason it still exists. RCS, when implemented, will be the exact same thing. Everyone, everywhere would ideally have access to this same service via their carrier.
But, getting everyone to play ball has been almost impossible for obvious reasons. To that end, RCS has been referred to in pretty harsh light over the course of these years, to the point that industry experts have said things like this:
So ignore it. There are no customers, no use-cases, and no revenues associated with “advanced messaging”. It’s the same pointless RCS zombie-tech I’ve been accurately predicting would fail for the last decade. It’s still dead, still shambling around and still trying to eat your brain. It’s managed to bite Google and Samsung, and they’ll probably try to infect you as well.
– Dean Bubley (Disruptive Analysis)
That’s pretty harsh.
But, to be honest, it was deserved. RCS has been floundering around with random support from Sprint and promised Q2 support from T-mobile, but that support does little without OEMs and software developers making things to use the services. Nevermind the other two GIANT carriers (AT&T, Verizon) that were keeping mum about the whole situation.
Until last night, I had little real hope that we’d ever see SMS/MMS go away in favor of RCS, but now I have some hope.
Google’s Grand Plan
I’m not going to go into a ton of detail on the whole plan and how Google got here: Dieter Bohn over at The Verge has written a brilliant piece on this already and you should absolutely go read it. In a nutshell, though, Google has been quietly getting carriers and OEMs onboard to use RCS in a push that gives them a viable way to leverage a useful, adoptable messaging strategy going forward.
We all know that Google has failed in this space repeatedly over the last decade. What with killing Google Chat, over-bloating and over-pivoting Hangouts, and then falling flat with Allo and Google Voice, Google has simply failed at messaging. That isn’t to say the products they’ve made arent’ great. I’ve used and really loved both Hangouts and Allo, but there is no functionality that supplants the need for a userbase.
That’s the part Google has never been able to capture. The messaging giants like iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp have those dedicated users. iMessage and Facebook get theirs from their existing product user bases, and WhatsApp was simply in the right place at the right time. There’s little reason for people to adopt yet another messaging platform.
You know what people are still using – to the tune of over 8 trillion times per year? Text messages.
With all the successes of differing IMs, sending and receiving text messages is still the default, go-to method of reaching just about everyone. Instead of trying yet another messaging platform, Google is going all in on RCS (the tech will be referred to as CHAT for carriers and users) and banking that this last avenue is the one that will eventually stick.
Interestingly, Google has done the legwork to get 55 cell carriers, 11 OEMs (Samsung, LG, HTC, Huawei are all here) and 2 OS makers (Google and Microsoft) fully on board. They are all agreeing to implement the same CHAT tech into their apps and services and all willing to call it the same thing. On its own merit, this is a miracle. Looking at the scope of that one accomplishment, we should have all known it would take a giant like Google to get everyone to play ball, but even I would have said that there is no way every company on this list would agree to work together.
The End of Google-Branded Messengers
So, this seems to be the end of Google’s never-ending cycle of swing-and-a-miss attempts at messaging. Oddly enough, that means that in the aftermath of this whole change, Google won’t have a consumer-facing messaging platform. RCS, for all its worth, will be handed over to the carriers to dispense much like SMS/MMS. That part isn’t great. I don’t trust carriers at all, but there is power in community. Once Google leverages Android Messages across its vast Android platform, the power will basically be in the carriers hands. Hopefully, the surrounding of other carriers and OEMs will provide a bit of check-and-balance, but it still makes me feel uneasy.
Wondering how this will play out? There’s no definite road map, but Google has paused development on Allo and shifted that team’s attention to Android Messages in order to bring all the fun features of Allo to Messages via RCS. It is bold and ambitious, but this is one of the last routes Google has to explore in trying to get a messaging platform that Android users will actually use. Texting is where the users are, so it makes sense to go there and revolutionize that space.
It could fail. There’s a real chance of that. But there’s a real chance that it works, too. In that event, with the billion-plus Android users all leveraging this messaging platform, any holdouts would have to just get on board. So far, Apple is mum on support for RCS, but if this all goes the way Google expects, I can’t see a scenario where Apple doesn’t play ball.
Don’t forget that, since RCS is an internet-based tech, desktop clients for messaging are also in the works.
For Android users, at some point in the coming months, Android Messages will get an update and simply be much, much more awesome. When that happens, all the tech mumbo-jumbo behind the scenes won’t matter much. People will just know that they can use their texting app to interact in fun and interesting ways like they currently do on Facebook or iMessage. For most people, they’ll just assume texting is finally getting an upgrade.
In the end, that really is what is happening. Texting is getting a much-needed, long-in-the-tooth overhaul. It’s going to be very, very interesting to watch. Check out Deiter’s video below for more details, and again, read his article when you get time. It is deserving of your time and goes way further in depth on all this.
SOURCE: The Verge