Maybe Google and Samsung are working together to make RCS inter-operate, but they shouldn’t HAVE to! And even if they ARE working together, that shouldn’t be the news here! We should be focusing on the fact that Rich Communications Services (RCS) Universal Profile (or Chat as Google wants to call it) is INTENDED to inter-operate between clients AND carriers!
We’ve all seen the “breaking news” stories about how Samsung and Google have decided to “work together” to make Android Messages and Samsung Messages “magically work together using RCS”. But that is baked into the RCS Universal Profile specification. It shouldn’t be news or really even require any actual interaction between the companies.
“RCS Is trying to replace Whatsapp / iMessage / Signal!”
Or maybe it isn’t. But again, that isn’t the story here! The real story is that ANY chat client CAN be compatible with RCS and as such could communicate with any other RCS compatible client!
Currently there are generally two schools of thought on messaging / chat. The first is carrier-centric messaging (SMS/MMS) and the second is Over the Top (OTT) apps that use data (iMessage, Whatsapp, Signal, etc). RCS has the potential to bridge this gap.
Additionally, OTT apps generally tend to be “walled-gardens” – they only work when the other user is using the EXACT SAME APP on the other end. RCS offers the potential to link the OTT walled gardens and the carrier-centric messaging into a single coherent environment.
Can you imagine being able to see typing indicators for someone using Whatsapp while you are using Android Message or iMessage? It COULD happen! All it would take (OK, that is a bit of an understatement) is for the over the top (OTT) apps to implement RCS and their “compatibility” would instantly expand.
“XYZ is the best messaging app, but it just doesn’t have enough users!”
We’ve all seen the “XYZ is the best chat app” comments. If XYZ were to add RCS compatibility it would have the opportunity to PROVE it’s the best app by not hiding in it’s walled garden any longer. If your RCS client works better than mine, I can find out about it via word of mouth and then try it (assuming it’s available on the platform I’m on). As it is now, the only way I am likely to try XYZ is if someone I HAVE to talk to ONLY uses that app. And if I decide to change clients, I don’t have to try to convince all of my contacts to switch too. 🙂
RCS isn’t end to end encrypted
This is a valid complaint. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind, RCS should be encrypted from the client to the carrier (which is much better than SMS / MMS).
Additionally, RCS allows for transfer of “files” – so it should be possible to send an encrypted file via RCS. For instance, if one Signal user wanted to send an encrypted message to another Signal user, this could potentially be delivered via RCS.
SMS / MMS messages can get lost in transit. Unfortunately, this is because the older specifications did not have the needed infrastructure to validate delivery. RCS has FULL delivery / retry built into the specs, so don’t base your assumptions of it’s dependability on the older carrier offerings.
Considering RCS is a carrier product, it’s possible that carriers COULD choose to zero-rate RCS data traffic. This could be a big help for limited data plans.