What Is RCS Messaging? What Makes It Different From iMessage and SMS?

In case you’re not aware, Apple has recently announced that it will offer RCS support starting in 2024. With this, one of the most confusing conflicts between Android and iOS is about to end. But the real question is, what is RCS messaging?

RCS messaging stands for Rich Communication Services messaging. It’s a protocol that stands between the phones and mobile operations. And the overall aim of the RCS is to eventually replace MMS and SMS messaging.

So, how is RCS messaging different than SMS? Also, how is it different from iMessage that Apple iPhone users have been enjoying for years now? Let’s take a deep dive to understand all about the topic.

What Is SMS?

Short Message Service (or SMS) has been one of the most ubiquitous messaging protocols for almost 38 years. It dates back to the very early days of mobile tech. And for those wondering, Neil Papworth sent the first SMS in 1992. He was an engineer at Vodafone at that time.

SMS and iMessage

Now, while SMS still stands as one of the most common forms of sending text, it has some notable drawbacks. For example, SMS messages have a limitation of 160 characters. But that’s not even the bad part. You can’t send any multimedia with it, which includes GIFs, videos, photos, or audio.

To mitigate this, smartphones have turned to a support protocol called MMS. But, like SMS, it has a couple of technical limitations. That includes the small size limits. Another big aspect of digital communication these days is end-to-end encryption, which the SMS and MMS don’t have support for. And that’s pretty much where RCS messaging steps in.

What is RCS Messaging? How Is It Different Form SMS and MMS?

As mentioned earlier, RCS messaging stands for Rich Communication Services messaging. However, you may find some smartphone manufacturers referring to it as “Advanced Messaging.” No matter what it’s called, this messaging protocol resolves all the drawbacks that SMS and MMS have.

To be exact, RCS messaging brings some of the previously exclusive features on messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. For example, RCS has support for typing indicators and the read receipts. It also brings group chat support and allows the users to send high-resolution images, audio clips, and videos.

Google Messages

Another aspect where the RCS messaging shines is it is routed over a WiFi link or mobile data connection. But the SMS protocol still functions like a fallback, which suggests that the older protocols aren’t going to be obsolete anytime soon.

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But one thing to note about RCS messaging is that it’s never been visualized as a competitor or replacement for instant messaging apps. After all, the RCS protocol is between the telephone carriers and the smartphone. You can enjoy all it offers by using an RCS-compatible carrier, phone, and app. When it comes to the app, Messages by Google is the most prominent.

Where Does iMessage Stand In All These?

While RCS messaging and iMessage may seem like the same thing, they aren’t. Apple brought iMessage out back in June of 2011. And unlike RCS, iMessage is Apple’s proprietary messaging protocol. What’s more important is that it only supports Apple devices, which includes iPad, iPhone, Mac, and Apple Watch.

However, there are some workarounds that enable iMessage to work on other devices. But none of them can offer end-to-end encryption and the security required for secure text communications. At the moment, iMessage and RCS messaging do not communicate with each other.

Apple iMessage

So, if an iPhone user wants to send a text to any Android device, the Messages app automatically resorts to SMS/MMS. That’s why Apple users feel like Android users are still living in the bygone messaging era. With no support for RCS messaging, there are no typing indicators, read receipts, or support for high-quality.

However, the good news is that Apple plans to integrate support for RCS messaging on its Messages app. This will eventually make text communication between Apple and Android users feel more intuitive and seamless.

Does RCS Messaging Support on Apple Mean the End of Green Text Bubbles?

So, one of the ways to determine whether you’re sending a text to an Android user is through the color of the bubble. On iPhones, the texts sent via SMS show up as green bubbles. And the fact that Apple confirmed that RCS messaging is coming to Apple Messages has given the hope that the green bubble thing might finally end.

But there’s no confirmation of that happening. RCS messaging support might only bring the ability to get a better communication experience between Android and iPhone devices. And Apple has also announced that iMessage “will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users.”

However, even if Apple decides to keep showing green bubbles when you receive or send texts to an Android user, RCS support is a good thing. Also, Apple has also said that it would work with the GSMA to enhance the existing Universal Profile protocol. This improvement would focus on adding end-to-end encryption, which is always a good thing.

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