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Message Wars: iMessage Vs RCS (2019)

From our archive: Back in 2019 we looked into what Google were up to with RCS and how that might impact business messaging. Was there an emerging winner in the Message Wars?

Message Wars: iMessage Vs RCS (2019)

iMessage and other messaging platforms will finally be getting a run for their money with Rich Communication Services which will bring a whole new level of app-like functionality to messaging. But before we get into that, let’s first get up to date on iMessage for iOS which we covered a couple of years back in our article “How to use Apple’s iMessage for stand out SMS Marketing“.

The trouble with iMessage

iMessage was and still is the quintessential messaging app for iOS users, thanks to its enhanced features and seamless integration with SMS – the most visible difference being SMS messages are displayed as Green rather than Blue.

Here’s a handy explainer from the Apple support site;

Source: Apple: About iMessage and SMS/MMS

The Link Preview functionality in iMessage sets it apart from plain text – see how nice this YouTube link looks in the below;

The bad news is that iOS 12 seems to have limited Link Preview to just person to person iMessages. So while iMessage is still compatible with SMS, on the newer operating systems it doesn’t support SMS that have been formatted in an iMessage friendly way such as the image preview above. This could be for security reasons or maybe (more likely) because they want to monetise it at some point.

Android users and the Green Bubble

Of course the real downside of iMessage is it’s still not available to most Android users. Until now, Google have failed to launch a messaging app with the same appeal and Android fans aka “green bubble boys and girls” have been reduced to arduous hacks such as the one below to access the coveted blue bubble of iMessage. It’s apparently so quick and easy, although the instructions take over 8 minutes so you would want to be very committed!

Rich Communication Services (RCS)

The benefits of RCS are numerous – group conversations, high-quality visuals including gifs, attachments, transfers, and fantastic interactivity as illustrated below.

“RCS combines the best of over-the-top (OTT) messaging and SMS functionality. RCS promises an app-like experience, without the investment or resources of an app. However, in the same way that SMS is a carrier-based service, RCS has all the benefits of SMS such as ubiquity and reach – but offers much greater functionality.” (RCS brings an app like experience without the app Message Media)

RCS has been “just around the corner” for several years – since 2007 in fact. The GSMA have worked hard to persuade the MNOs (mobile network operators) to take it on as the new standard in messaging, and put together a great showcase of the possible applications for business to persuade everyone. Every year the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona has reported a lot of enthusiasm for this technology… But nothing really happened…

RCS – the Future of Messaging?

Until now that is, because Google are on on board and using RCS in their Messages platform since last year (here’s how to get it) – and they even have an RCS Messaging status indicator in the latest version. Google are rolling out trials in the UK and France as of June 2019. And while there are some monopoly and privacy concerns, for now it seems the mobile operators and regulators are happy to let Google do the heavy lifting (TheVerge.com: Google is Finally Taking Charge of the RCS Rollout“)

Gif courtesy of TheVerge.com

The Google take-over of RCS means that their Messages app is now a real contender to the throne of Messenger, Whatsapp and indeed SMS – because it will become the native messaging application on compatible phones. For business communications it should be good news – Google has a track record of opening things up to third party application developers which bodes well.

While Google are not (currently) looking to monetize person to person RCS or insert ads into messages, we anticipate that in the near future they will be monetizing A2P (app to person) RCS – the revenue has to come from somewhere!

In conclusion, while the roll out is going to be sporadic, RCS has huge potential for corporate messaging services for brands and businesses, and we will certainly be reporting further on this topic in the near future.

Interested in finding out more about our messaging solutions? Please get in touch here

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