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It's not your duty to suffer through the early days of RCS — just use another messaging app

RCS chat
RCS chat (Image credit: Android Central)

The Android enthusiast community is stoked about RCS messaging. Being excited about a new messaging protocol is the exact kind of thing Android nerds would get excited about, and the fact that it's generally being positioned as a new unified messaging platform to be "iMessage for Android" has elevated its appeal.

But sadly, RCS continues to have a rocky rollout. Carriers are dragging their feet in supporting it, as are phone makers — and while the latter can be addressed with a third-party messaging app, there's little you can do about the former. Cross-carrier (to say nothing of cross-country) RCS support is a mixed bag, and in some cases they're forming messaging alliances on the side to muddy the waters further.

RCS isn't ready for prime time yet, and you don't have to use it until it is.

With all of the tumult surrounding the rollout of RCS, I just don't understand why so many people are so enthusiastic about using it right now. At this point, you have to work to get RCS. There's a "hack" (of sorts) to enable it on any phone, but that's not guaranteed to stick around forever — or even long enough for carriers and phone makers to actually support it properly. Outside of that you need to be using a specific app and only certain carriers — and that goes for everyone you talk to. Having to think about apps and carriers and protocols is exactly the problem RCS is aiming to solve — yet you have to deal with it all to use RCS right now.

It's not my duty as a messaging app user to be the one to die on the RCS hill. There is zero reason for me to keep trying to rely on RCS as it's rolling out and clearly in an unfinished state. A messaging app means nothing if the people you talk to most often aren't on it — or willing to switch to a new platform that supports it. And with all of the caveats involved with RCS right now, you aren't going to be finding all of your friends and family jumping through hoops to start chatting with you using RCS.

Source: Android Central (Image credit: Source: Android Central)

Then, there's the Apple situation. As our own Joe Maring astutely points out, RCS really can't fully "catch on" until Apple supports it. There are few people who live in a world where they don't speak to a single person with an iPhone — and there's a good chance a lot of people you regularly talk to have one. So even in the most optimistic case, where every person in your life with an Android phone has RCS, you're still facing a bifurcated experience of getting improved RCS chat with those Android users and "regular" SMS with the iPhone users. You can't win even in an ideal world where the RCS dream on Android is fully realized — so why are you so enthusiastic to use it right now when it's mostly broken?

Why are you so enthusiastic to use RCS when it's mostly broken?

But if we're going to talk hypotheticals here, there's a chance that you can find a single chat app that works with everyone. Maybe that's WhatsApp (opens in new tab), Telegram (opens in new tab), WeChat (opens in new tab), Line (opens in new tab), Facebook Messenger (opens in new tab), GroupMe (opens in new tab), Hangouts (opens in new tab) or a dozen others. Yes I'll admit it's rather optimistic to think you could get everyone you talk to regularly on a single chat app — but right now, it's impossible to get everyone using RCS, no matter what you do. So why force yourself to use RCS, dealing with the struggles of incompatibility, incomplete feature sets and explaining to everyone what to do to get it at this point? It just isn't worth it right now. Not when there are great chat apps that work well, have the features you want, and are available cross-platform.

We've all experienced different versions of messaging platform frustration, and for many of us, it's to the point where just the idea of RCS is incredibly appealing — even if the reality is that it isn't ready yet. But we need to realize that we communicate with people on actual chat platforms, not theoretical ones. Use a messaging app that works right now, and come back to RCS at a later date when it's ready for prime time.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

68 Comments
  • Why can't everyone just use telegram? Lol
  • Why can't everyone use Signal? Open source. Why does anyone use Facebook messenger or Whatsapp both owned by Facebook?
  • It's circular. People use Facebook messenger because people use Facebook messenger, and people don't use signal because people don't use signal.
  • Most people don't have an "owned by Facebook, so I must avoid" bias. That's where most people are. I have one person I communicate with, on Signal. I don't think I'll bother installing it on my next phone.
  • What can you say? Boomers
  • A lot of Boomers know more about tech than Millenials...after all, we created it for you.
  • Sure, okay, boomer.
  • "why can't everyone just use ____" is not a solution. "Why can't everyone just use the app they want?" is the proper solution.
  • I'd rather a person go through the whole RCS nonsense than try to convince me to install random messenger X. They can go through the RCS junk by themselves and I don't have to do anything if I don't want to. I'd rather that than have to install my 9th messenger app for this one person.
  • The problem is that in many cases even if they go through "the whole RCS nonsense" it still doesn't work right and certainly isn't feature-complete. I know it's frustrating, but RCS just isn't a solid foolproof solution yet. That's my point.
  • But it will use regular SMS, right? You can use your text app to send messages by SMS, MMS, and RCS. If the RCS portion is broken, I assume that SMS/MMS will take over. Is that correct? That's what Apple's iMessage thing does. By the way iPhone users have to deal with Android users the same way. We don't have iMessage, so they have to use regular text outside of the iFortress. Same problem, same solution, so I don't see it as a roadblock to RCS.
  • Precisely. IMO, ideally what should happen is that Google should take the E2E encryption messaging from Allo and put it in Messages. If the other person doesn't have Messages then it tries RCS, if they don't have that then it goes to SMS/MMS. Basically just like iMessage but for Android plus RCS.
  • That's what happens on Google messages
  • Of course it falls back to SMS. And at that point, without making anything clear to anyone involved, you lose your advanced messaging features. Really great user experience there.
  • What a strange take. RCS has a low implementation rate, so don't use it. But if no one uses it, how will implementation rates rise? Catch 22 is fun isn't it?
  • That would be the case if we were talking about a fully-featured service that actually worked as designed/intended. RCS isn't that, it's not finished or anywhere near universally deployed. There are more barriers to using RCS than a desire to use it.
  • Apparently not since Google could clearly make it work tomorrow if they wanted to.
  • People who buy Pixel phones suffer through an eternal Android and device beta. I think you'll be fine with the slow, painful RCS rollout. Me personally? SMS is and has always been fine for cross platform messaging so I will continue to use it.. If I switch to iOS at some point then I'd be using the best messenger that can fall back to SMS so easy decision.
  • Dunno what this writer is on about. If they ain't on RCS the get an sms.. no issues. Everybody is on SMS.
  • Of course everyone is "on" SMS, but it doesn't offer any of the features that people want out of a modern messaging service. Yes you can always contact someone over SMS if you need to, but you're not going to be running group messages, sending media, or getting any of the other "advanced" features that are table stakes across every other messaging platform.
  • While it's not as good, many of those shortcomings are covered by MMS.
  • "RCS really can't fully "catch on" until Apple supports it." - This ignorant statement is getting old.
  • Not to mention that imessage survived without android support. So why do we need Apple support? Would it be better? Yes, but not necessary.
  • Agreed, there are more Android devices than iPhones. We'll just have our own green/blue dot complaints.
  • What do you do when talking to iPhone people?
  • No. if Apple doesn't support it the iPhone people won't get the RCS message.
  • I'll just keep using Textra untill im forced to switch to RCS someday.
  • You went have to "switch". The texting apps likely will all support RCS, when it's ready.
  • if users don't pressure carriers and manufacturers, who will?
  • Andrew, I understand this is an opinion piece--but as a journalist it's still your duty to tell the full story. Yes carriers drag their feet (on everything mind you, RCS isn't unique in that regard) and the RCS rollout has been less than stellar, but how can you not mention the RCS cross venture agreement, CCMI? The US sets trends, so if the major carriers are all on board, the rest of the dominos will fall in time. This article is just a bearish view of RCS. What makes more sense, convincing everyone to download a new app they don't want to use and only works with a subset of people, or improving the baseline that literally everyone with a smartphone already has?
  • CCMI was mentioned in the article as an example of how carriers are creating their own messaging alliances to muddy the RCS waters.
  • It's not our job as users to sit here and use it while it's not finished. There's nothing we can do to improve it other than complain. It's fully up to the carriers to figure it out and then we can use it when it's ready.
  • We are excited because the SMS protocol is so atrocious we went through great lengths to get RCS up and running. It's been a solid and great experience so far. It's so refreshing to send photos and video that are viewable at the very least. Not looking like a 3gp video from a flip phone back in 2004.
  • The post is just silly. Everything uses SMS. Tried and true on every carrier, handset, and operating system. Hardly anyone outside of Android blogs even know that it exists. When they do find out it'll be because of a mass planned and professionally executed rollout.
  • Except that SMS sucks and clearly doesnt work when you have no Cell signal.
  • Nobody says that SMS doesn't work. But SMS is a really really really crappy user experience with the absolute bare minimum of features. Messaging doesn't just = strings of text between two people anymore. We expect WAY more than that, and SMS doesn't do it.
  • I send plenty of photos via sms and it works fine. This is a big deal about nothing. I've NEVER heard any of my Android users complain about RCS and in fact most wouldn't even know what it is, nor have I ever heard any of my iPhone users even mention iChat.
  • Technically the things you send outside of text are sent via MMS. RCS will send them "better", meaning you can send videos that are recognizable, for example. Hopefully RCS will just get baked into text apps like MMS is now and we won't have to worry about it, and our friends still won't know what it is. They'll just think that texting got an upgrade.
  • Thanks, I guess all of us (my circle) never send vids.
  • Every since I've been connected, thru messages, anything I send goes much faster(sometimes MMS could take over a hr). It's within 6 sec of send. I think it's moving along fine, as much as I'm concerned.
  • Whats odd for me is that the option to enable was available on my Oneplus 7 pro and I enabled it. On my wife's Note 8 it was as well and I also enabled it on her phone. Then when I went back to my phone it was not available again.
  • Today interaction with iMessage is same as it is going to be tomorrow. People without iMessage, anyway can not chat with people on iPhone and that will continue until Apple decided to go the RCS way. But don't forget 85% market share is Android and with the use of RCS messaging they can interact within the Android eco system which is a great thing. And they will interact with people in the Apple eco system at they are doing today. Again why all the negativity about RCS. This is is a very biased report
  • This is exactly right. I really don't understand what kind of lame argument this author is trying to make. "RCS doesn't work with everyone so everyone should choose one of a hundred different messaging apps and use that instead." It's a really stupid take because people arguing against RCS aren't taking that same logic to iMessage. "iMessage doesn't work with everyone so iPhone users should switch to something else." Putting the shoe on the other foot shows how dumb this whole argument is. Especially when the argument is that you can't send anything other than strings of text. As if MMS doesn't exist. This article is just lazy and biased. Sadly, Android Central has been posting a lot of these types of things lately.
  • So if all the major carriers adopt RCS in 2020 then Apple will have no choice but to add it to their iMessage, correct?
    What if after the full Carrier implementation of RCS, Google were to offer its own encrypted messaging solution that could fall back to RCS? Similar to iMessage. It could be available across all platforms.
  • RCS is worthless unless all phones and carriers support it and it is encrypted. Simple as that. I try to only use Signal if possible and I try to never use SMS for anything that is important...
  • What is important?
  • That's not what useless is. That's your choice of use. The vast majority of people use regular SMS/MMS, so it clearly has a use. Way more people use FB Messenger, WhatsApp, etc, than use Signal. I find Signal to be the least useful app, for me, because I have literally one person I message that uses it. Also, most texting isn't "important". I don't send credit card numbers or my SSN.
  • Use signal with who?. Maybe 6 people that you don't even know if they actually use it or not. It does the same thing as imessage where it doesn't tell u that the other person no longer has it active if they forget to re-register and simply just delete the app. Signal is a waste of time. Every time I try it.. max of two weeks later, it's uninstalled. Of my 293 contacts.. only 6 were on signal. And only one of them is a contact i message frequently. With RCS.. as new as it is I've already got 21 contacts. It's gonna grow relatively fast.
  • It's hardly suffering when everything falls back to SMS. It's just an early taste for those that are interested, and maybe it also encourages Google to invest, along with the carriers, in a part of Android they have half assed for an incredibly long time. Just call it an unexpected beta test. Suffering is waiting for Google Voice to become something. That's suffering for real.
  • Man, I feel sorry for you suffering so badly. I'll tell all the people having a grand ol' time living in poverty and dealing with starvation, malnutrition, infections, and no medical care what horrible, "real suffering" they can look forward to if they ever manage to crawl out of the trenches.
  • Author: you do understand that RCS falls back on SMS, in the same way that iMessages does, right? And you also understand that RCS is a protocol that can be adopted by other software, unlike iMessages which is confined to, well, iMessages. I'm not sure what your point here was supposed to be, and honestly I don't think you are either.
  • I mean...I guess I'm just not the target audience here, but I really just don't give a damn about RCS. Literally everyone I text has an iPhone, so it makes literally no difference to me whether I have RCS or not. For me, texting is texting and I don't care about read receipts or live view of someone replying or whatever else it brings. Among my family, I will always be the green bubble and I'm really okay with that.
  • +1 I'm with ya 100%
  • This argument doesn't make much sense to me either. RCS is exciting because it will work within the default messaging app but better than SMS/MMS, so people wouldn't have to get another messaging app. My best Android messaging experience was when texting was integrated into Hangouts years ago. The second best was Allo unfortunately no one used it. All I want and I think a lot of others would agree is to have the messaging from Allo added to Messages (ala iMessage) that would then roll back to RCS (forced by Google) and then roll back to SMS/MMS after that. All in one app.
  • Exactly! Even if Google had just added sms/mms fallback to Allo when it was originally released it would have been viable. Then they could have added RCS when it became available. But Google has this attention deficit disorder with messaging where they'll just release a half baked app then be disappointed when it does not take off, kill it, try another new messaging app, kill it, try another messaging app, kill it...
  • I thought everything in this article the first day the hack was detailed. Useless.
  • I guess I'm one of the rare people who's circle of family and friends is mostly Android. Android isn't this odd duckling. Not by a long shot. And the people I talk to who do use iPhones are really weird about their iMessage. I have a Mac and I know I will hear from them faster if I message them from my Mac via iMessage. But iPhone users still obviously use FB Messenger, so it's a mess on all fronts. The whole blue bubble nonsense is just Apple fan weirdness. It says a lot more about them than it does about Android's messaging "woes".
  • RCS in this current hack state is exciting but there just aren't enough user's who are comfortable with installing it. As a result it's a ghost town out there. Because we know and see the difference with iMessage which IMO is superior to anything Android/Google has as a default messenger app it begs the question, would the 4 US carriers prefer we switch over to iPhones since they don't want to spend the money to support a multitude of devices that aren't united in the Android OS. The same thing goes with Air Drop, what a useful app that Android users are missing out.
  • This article relates only with regards to the United States. RCS has been around for years within Asian and European countries just to mention two out of many. Consumers in my opinion should be hammering their carriers for holding back and not joining the GSM community to its fullest. Heck.. We still have carriers who lie about 5G coverage and use the 5e logos even for devices that can't support 5G at all, lol!
  • What? I have been using RCS on my Pixel via Google Fi for at least a year and haven't even thought about it. Broken? What in the hell are you even talking about? If the person I'm talking to doesn't have it then the features aren't available, if they do than they are. It literally requires no effort on my part. This article is idiotic.
  • Quick question - how much do you get paid per article to **** on RCS? This is the second "article" (I'm inclined to call it "farticle" since it carries little to no facts, and much more personal opinion "brainfarts") in just as many days to take a **** on it, after ******** on Google for months for not rolling it out. Seriously, pick a side, ******** on everything just makes you look childish.
  • I still don't understand what RCS really offers. Typing notifications are silly. I'll respond to your text when I can respond. I share photos and videos with Google Photos. What else is there?
  • You pretty much got it. All this RCS and iMessage nonsense really just adds up to people being overly dramatic about a few minor, unnecessary conveniences. Probably just because they don't have anything better to report on or complain about...
  • I use FB Messenger because I can't seem to get anyone to leave FB. But I would never use it for texting. Though I wish RCS would get adopted by everyone quicker It really doesn't me at all that it hasn't.
  • Suffer? Aren't you being more than a bit overly dramatic here? RCS, iMessage, WhatsApp, and other "advanced" chat features really just add up to a few minor conveniences after all. If you call this suffering, I hate to see how you crumble when one of life's real problems hits you.
  • Duty? How about pleasure. Besides the occasional glitch I am moving all of my Android peeps to RCS because the read receipts and high quality photos are amazing. Most of my friends are using regular sms anyway besides the Android users. Give it time and if the carriers actually get RCS going apple will feel obliged to adopt it as it's main fallback
  • It's also not my duty to try to wrangle all my friends and family onto a single messaging platform. I have better things to do.
  • « you're still facing a bifurcated experience of getting improved RCS chat with those Android users and "regular" SMS with the iPhone users«  Well iMessage have exactly the same problem, resorting to sms when texting an Android user. It didn’t stop it from being a good experience and succeed. I don’t see why it can’t be the same with RCS