What is RCS and how is it different from SMS and iMessage?

The iPhone’s two-step messaging system has been a hot topic for years. In the Messages app, iPhone-to-iPhone texts are blue and enjoy full encryption and more robust media features like animations. But messages to and from Android devices are just standard SMS texts and are highlighted in green. Apple’s separate messaging platform has become a topic , and even led to talk of regulatory intervention. But with Apple’s recent confirmation that it will begin supporting the newer RCS messaging standard in iOS 18, is the iPhone messaging playing field about to be leveled? Or are we just replacing one acronym with another?

Mixed? Do not worry. We’re about to reveal what could change with Apple’s adoption of the GSMA’s next-generation messaging protocol.

Short Message Service (SMS) is one of the most common messaging protocols on the planet. It dates back to the early days of mobile technology. In December 1992, Neil Papworth, then an engineer at Vodafone, sent the first SMS text message when he wished his boss “Merry Christmas”. By early 2011, approximately 80 percent of all mobile phone users globally—about 3.5 billion people—were sending SMS messages each month.

However, today the standard has some notable shortcomings. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters, and the texts you send cannot include photos, videos, audio or GIFs. For this, cell phones have long turned to a supporting protocol known as Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), but it also has technical limitations, including small message size limits. SMS also does not support end-to-end encryption.

But for all the ways SMS feels dated in an era dominated by instant messaging platforms, it does have one advantage: SMS messages are routed through your carrier’s cellular network, meaning you don’t need a data plan to use the technology. This fact means that SMS often acts as a fallback to more advanced protocols, including Apple’s iMessage.

RCS is short for Rich Communication Services, although it is sometimes marketed as “Advanced Messaging”. Either way, it’s often positioned as a next-generation replacement for SMS and MMS. RCS allows users to take advantage of many features that were previously exclusive to premium messaging platforms like WhatsApp.

For example, the RCS Universal Profile includes full support for read receipts and write pointers. It can also facilitate proper group chats and allow users to send high-quality images, videos and audio clips. Since earlier this year, Google’s RCS implementation has offered end-to-end encryption (E2EE) by default for both. one on one and group chats.

Unlike SMS texts, RCS messages are routed over a mobile data connection or Wi-Fi connection, acting as an SMS backup. For this reason, the old protocol is probably not going anywhere anytime soon.

One important thing to remember about RCS is that it is not and never was meant to be a replacement or competitor to instant messaging apps. At its core, RCS is a communication protocol between mobile phone carriers and between the phone and the operator. Using RCS does not require signing up for a new service. As long as your phone and carrier support RCS and you’re using a compatible app Messages from Googleyou can take advantage of everything the protocol has to offer—provided, of course, that the person or people you’re messaging meet the same requirements.

Apple announced iMessage in June 2011, a few months before Steve Jobs died later that year. Unlike RCS, iMessage is a proprietary messaging protocol managed and available only by Apple (to avoid some random, informal solutions) only on iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Mac devices. Starting in 2024 iOS 18 update, Apple plans to integrate RCS support into the Messages app. At the time of writing this article, the two protocols do not communicate with each other. So when users try to send text and media files to someone with an Android phone, Apple’s Messages app will default to SMS/MMS.

From the point of view of an iMessage user, it can feel like Android users are stuck in the past era of messaging – although the latter is not to blame for the situation. Because iMessage relies on SMS/MMS for Android communication, media files get pixelated, have no read receipts or write indicators, and forget about trying to get multiple iPhone and Android users into a group chat.

Although work on RCS began before Apple announced iMessage, the protocol had one major drawback that doomed it to a slow rollout. RCS is a multi-stakeholder project involving the GSMA, the trade body representing the interests of the mobile industry as a whole. In 2015, Google took a more active role in promoting RCS Acquired Jibe Mobile. Google is effective in providing the glue that binds the RCS ecosystem together, with Jibe technology at its core, but for a long time the company has done a poor job of aligning everyone involved in RCS toward a common goal.

In fact, the early days of RCS were marked by false starts, with some carriers including one group AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon form a short-term joint venture ultimately pushing the protocol before aligning themselves with Google. Even Samsung did its thing a while ago and eventually agreed to do Messages by Google default messaging app Ships on phones in the US.

For this reason, Apple has little reason to adopt RCS. After all, why would he give a freebie to a wayward competitor? And in 2022, there was little or no chance of things changing anytime soon. “I don’t hear our users asking us to put a lot of energy into it,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at Code Conference that year when asked about RCS messaging. “Buy your mom an iPhone” was his last word on this.

But the European Union passed its acceptance last year landmark Digital Markets and Services Act (DMA). Legislation requires “gatekeepers” not to favor their systems or restrict third parties from interacting with their systems. Gatekeepers are any company that meets specific financial and usage qualifications. Apple, by law, is one such company.

Finally, the EU decided in 2024 (although European regulators had many other directives for other aspects of the Apple empire). Although compatible, there was Apple . Note that Apple expert John Gruber may be Apple’s biggest motivation . But whatever the reason, it seems like a done deal: Apple has confirmed that RCS support is coming to the iPhone as part of it. iOS 18.

Unfortunately, there are green bubbles it’s likely here to stay. The company said in its original statement at RCS that iMessage “will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.” However, even if you assume that phrase means that iMessage will continue to display texts from non-Apple devices differently than those sent from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, Apple’s adoption of RCS will lead to a better user experience for both iOS and Android. should lead to users.

Again, Apple needs to be specific, but it’s easy to imagine a future where its Messages app properly displays high-quality photos and videos sent from Android phones thanks to RCS, allowing both iOS and Android users to participate in group chats. without breaking anything. Apple also said in its original announcement in November 2023 that it would work with GSMA members to improve the existing Universal Profile protocol, with a focus on adding end-to-end encryption to the standard.

Of course, whether this interaction ends the stigma around green bubbles is more difficult to answer.

Editors note: This story was originally published in November 2023 and has been updated to reflect new information.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *