In February this year, Google’s efforts to make Rich Communication Services (RCS) more readily available on Android devices received another major boost. The tech giant announced that more than two dozen carriers and mobile device manufacturers agreed to get on board with making Android Messages the standard messaging app for their subscribers. For a company that’s never really been strong with messaging, this is a big deal. Let’s examine what this means for RCS and its adoption.
Back when text messaging first emerged as a communication medium, SMS was king. You could send 160 characters to anyone with a cellular phone. In the age of flip phones and nine-key texting, that was all anyone needed. And make no mistake, that’s still unchanged with SMS still ruling the texting airwaves with unmatchable delivery and open rates.
But, over time, the likes of Whatsapp have also grown in popularity on the back of a simple idea: It’s like texting, it’s free and has a few more features than you’d be able to enjoy with standard SMS messaging. Apple went a similar route and built a massive fan base with iMessage just by introducing additional features in the message.
Now, Google’s bringing SMS back to where it should be. It’s being called SMS 2.0 and RCS is essentially Google’s response to Apple iMessage, Whatsapp, and the plethora of other messaging apps out there. It’s effectively SMS messaging with all the features and flexibility of a messaging app.
At its core, RCS represents opportunities. A major challenge for Google is the competition that it’s facing. It may be that the tech giant is making a move too late. The likes of iMessage and Whatsapp are so ubiquitous and simple. Google can’t simply build the same thing and hope for its success. Or can they?
Well, Google’s plans seem to be working. Every few months new carriers and manufacturers have been jumping on board. All-in-all some 1 billion people now have access to RCS messaging tools. And, if you’re a potential investor or someone looking at using RCS in a commercial manner, those are some pretty big numbers. It seems that carriers and manufacturers are tired of losing out on a huge piece of telecommunications pie to the tune of $100 billion. Google is riding this momentum.
If any company is large enough to beat the naysayers and make RCS a thing, it’s Google. And it has one key element in its favor: its market share. Its enormous presence, particularly in developing countries, means that anything Google creates that is supported across any Android device effectively becomes universal. This counters one of RCS’ greatest weaknesses: adoption.
The reality is that Google is going to encounter resistance. And despite their size and influence, they’re not going to be able to just snap their fingers and expect change. But in typically defiant fashion, Google’s head of RCS, Amir Sarhangi, predicts that the company will be able to overcome this and get every carrier and manufacturer steering in the same direction. “We’re excited to see RCS messaging reach more people and look forward to launching with more partners in the coming months,” Sarhangi said in a recent blog post.
And the former Jibe man has every right to be defiant. To date, Google has managed to convince the following carriers to commit to their RCS roll out: Deutsche Telekom (Germany), Orange S.A. (France), Globe Telecom (Philippines), and Vodafone across 10 of its global markets. It’s also managed to convince mobile device manufacturers to use Android Messages as the native messaging app: LG, Motorola, Sony, and HTC are all on board. Those are some pretty big players and show that Google is certainly moving in the right direction when it comes to getting commitments to RCS.
Related: The state of SMS and RCS messaging
The revamping of SMS is likely to affect every industry as businesses rediscover the commercial uses of SMS marketing. Read our article on how you can improve your business’ SMS marketing. It outlines tips to better your SMS marketing in preparation for the future. One thing’s for sure: SMS isn’t going away until something comes along that’s radically different and just as painlessly available. And not even RCS is set to make that happen anytime soon. In fact, it seems to be shedding an even greater light on the benefits that any business can enjoy by making use of SMS messaging in their overall digital marketing strategies.