Sprint becomes the first carrier to launch RCS messaging on Android. RCS, or Rich Communications Services, is a new type of universal messaging designed to work similarly to Apple’s iMessage.
Google first entered this communications protocol when it bought Jibe Mobile last fall. Although RCS has been around since 2007, it has failed to attract support from any of the 50+ carriers around the world. But in February of this year, Google partnered with the GSM Association along with 15 carriers.
RCS brings advanced features to texting, like group chat, sharing hi-res photos, read receipts and more. Google will be powering this with the Jibe RCS cloud. Customers of Sprint will see the standard SMS feature replaced with RCS in the Messenger app in 2017. If you currently use certain LG and Nexus phones with Sprint, your messaging app will be automatically updated through the Play Store.
In a world where Google has four messaging apps: Allo, Duo, Google Messenger and Hangouts, this move to RCS favors Messenger over the other apps. At least on Sprint phones, Messenger will be the default texting app starting next year.
AndroidPolice points out that T-Mobile and AT&T have actually released RCS messaging too. But those versions aren’t compatible with Google’s standard. Both carriers seem to be marketing RCS as a carrier feature, instead of the universal standard that Google wants it to be.
It’s also worthwhile to point out that RCS wouldn’t be a true universal protocol like SMS if Apple doesn’t get on board. But why would they? They already use their own proprietary iMessage system. So far in 2016 there are an estimated 90 million iPhone users. Hopefully the addition of RCS doesn’t fragment the global communication system. RCS, SMS and iMessage? Carrier-specific versions of RCS that aren’t compatible with each other? No thanks.