Google is making it easier for carriers to communicate over RCS

Android Messages
Android Messages (Image credit: Android Central)

RCS is a next-generation communication protocol with read receipts, group chat, support for high-definition images, and more. The goal with RCS is to bring SMS and MMS to feature parity with the likes of Facebook Messenger, and Google has been leading the charge on that front. Earlier this year, the company rebranded Messenger to Android Messages, making it the de facto messaging app for RCS.

Google is also working closely with carriers to make RCS ubiquitous on Android — the platform's answer to iMessage. There are inherent challenges involved in getting carriers to talk to one another over the protocol — over the years, carriers have built additional features into their own messaging clients as a means of differentiation. For instance, AT&T and T-Mobile both offer RCS, but their version isn't compatible with Sprint's implementation, which uses Google's recommended universal profile.

Rogers is another carrier that uses the standardized universal profile, and earlier this week the Canadian carrier announced that its RCS solution is interoperable with Sprint. To bring further intercompatibility among carriers, Google's VP of communication products Nick Fox said that the company is using a "hub" model to get carriers connected to one another over RCS. For instance, a carrier connected to the hub will be able to connect to all the other carriers also connected.

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The model makes it far less cumbersome for carriers to get set up with RCS as they don't have to develop individual connections with other carriers, saving resources and time. The move should lead to more carriers adopting the messaging protocol in the future.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

  • I really want this to work. Or Apple release iMessage for Android...
  • Apple will never release iMessage on android (no incentive), so I agree RCS is our only hope. Then, some day in the far, far future the carriers will sundown the SMS system and Apple will be forced incorporate RCS into iMessage. Of course we will get lots of folks who will say just use WhatsApp or FB messenger, but those folks have no understanding of the US market.
  • I hear that. I am trying to get all of my friends to use Allo as a texting alternative. I feel like regular SMS is just so outdated.
  • Yeah, good luck with that.
  • its very useful.. but i wish there was a way to tweak some settings.. I use textra pro and kika emjo keyboard pro and i can do so much more. combine them both and you have a full customized texting experience. plus you can send your location and stuff just like imessage or just use the google assistant.
  • Why keep restricted options? WhatsApp is huge globally and makes sense to use it in the US as well. Especially when the video and voice calling feature works far better than Apple's implementation. Besides it's also cross platform.
  • Like I said this sort of thinking shows little understanding of the US market. iMessage is huge in the US. Do you know why? Because apple made it the default messenger for the iphone. There is no way the majority of iphone users in the US would have ever used iMessage if apple had made it a standalone non-default app. I'm sure WhatsApp works great and all, but there is one killer feature WhatsApp does not have and will never have--it will never be the default messaging app on the iPhone. You're never going to get more than a token amount of iPhone users in the US to download and use WhatsApp. Why would they? They have imessage as the default and the significant majority of their friends all use imessage--because (again) it is the default.
  • I been trying to get ppl to understand this for the longest... Google could make the perfect messaging app/service and it will flop because they would have to force it on ppl and Android doesn't like doing that....
  • Not to mention that WhatsApp is opened by Facebook and at any point, they could choose to change how it works or change the encryption so they can read messages to "improve the user experience" (in their favor, of course).
  • I want RCS to work but I can't get it working on my device.
  • I've used it through the lame Android messages app, it's pretty unreliable. Sometimes it'll send the rcs, sometimes it'll switch to sms without notice (after you send and it errors, you'll see SMS appear written over the send button, but again, that's after you sent the message)...and a lot of the time it errors out and sends the same message as sms and rcs. My friends ***** about it all the time, getting all the messages twice, especially long messages. They'll get it as one message through rcs, but then again as 8 separate messages through sms. Also, only works with other users on sprint, not compatible with any other carrier in the US. Honestly, I'd prefer to have regular old SMS/mms added to allo, and be able to IM other users more reliably with the ability to sms anyone not using allo. This seems like a better and easier solution to me. Rcs is pretty pathetic as it is now, not a solution to anything, just more issues.
  • Yeah was hoping Allo was our version of iMessage but nooooo Google screwed that up!
  • Precisely, all the potential Allo had..... Only if they'd add SMS integration. And pre-install the darn thing on every phone out there, until we choke on it.
  • "the platform's answer to iMessage" No it isn't and stop saying it is. iMessage is a messaging ecosystem, RCS is a protocol. RCS is something iMessage could adopt (and probably will) as a fallback mechanism. Until Android Messages allows me to send a message from my tablet or my computer as well as my phone and have the recipient receive it via whatever protocol their device supports, it's not an iMessage competitor. Until it does cloud sync of conversations across all devices, it's not an iMessage competitor. Stop letting Google off easy. RCS is just going to allow enhanced messaging features, but Google has to do so much more to fix their messaging ecosystem and we need to demand better of them.
  • Which messaging ecosystem does Google need to fix? They've got so many. Which is the ultimate problem. If all the carriers get onboard with rcs, I'll bet Apple will roll support into iMessage.
  • They have that on Verizon. It's called Verizon Messages. I don't use it on my phone, but I use it on my tablet and it works great.
  • If you bothered to research more about where headed you'd discover rather quickly that all those things you complain about are very much planned.
  • I have read extensively on it. Bullet points on what it can do are not indicative of actual plans. Google, so far, has demonstrated no drive toward unified messaging and the carriers aren't going to go for non-cellular cross compatibility. Google can fix this NOW. Give us a messaging client that uses your phone for a carrier gateway no matter where you send a message from, a client that falls back to lowest common denominator messaging, and make them available on every platform. Graft the Allo backend and features on to Android Messenger, register your number as the SMS gateway. Get that web client up and running. Send a message from the web client and your recipient can only receive SMS? Route that message through your phone and send it out as an SMS. Do they support RCS? Open up the feature set for messaging and route through appropriate RCS gateway (which will still likely be the phone for backward comparability.) It's not hard, they could have done it years ago, but they chose not to for some maddening reason. RCS is not the blocker that's preventing it. Expecting RCS to solve this is setting yourself up for disappointment.
  • By chance, what carrier do you use? Because I'm going to switch today. Your carrier must be the easiest and most compliant carrier in the world to deal with because you have a decidedly inaccurate view of how most carriers are and what power google has over them (hint: not much). In setting up RCS, google is dealing with what, about 80 carriers around the world? I don't know if you've tried, but it's hard enough getting 80 people to do something together much less 80 different corporations in dozens of different countries. It takes time to get these features out and Google isn't in a position to simply jam it down the carriers throat. Have we forgotten the fate of hangouts already?? The features are rolling out. The open API is set to be released in matter of weeks. Patience Padawan.
  • It sounds like you were just describing hangouts tho.... If ppl would've just used it more support would've came to it and it probably would've been awesome by now but ppl rather complain about what Google isn't forcing on them rather looking to see what is actually offered
  • Exactly. Hangouts never took off because the carriers would have never let it become the default messenger in the US.
  • Verizon has RCS messaging, but in typical verizon fashion, it only works on their messaging app. This is the problem. Until they have a reason (or financial gain) verizon could care less.