Today it is possible to send text messages from smartphones as well as PCs and other connected devices, giving individual users and businesses alike a number of ways to stay in touch with one another. In fact, the SMS standard has been around for over three decades, standing the test of time in spite of the rise of instant messaging services.
However, the search giant Google is reported to be working on a new platform called RCS, which stands for Rich Communications Services. And if it is successful in its endeavours, it could signal the end of SMS as we know it.
Modernising Text Messages
RCS is intended to be an all-encompassing messaging solution which allows users to send standard texts along with multimedia content, including images and video clips.
This will mean that RCS will be able to compete not only with SMS but also with IM services like the cross-platform WhatsApp and the iOS-specific iMessage.
Google spokesperson Nick Fox spoke out about the extent to which people are still reliant on messaging in order to communicate, even in an age of VoIP and video-calling. But he explained that modern users are looking for a media-rich experience which is simply not achievable using older SMS solutions.
For Google the clear goal with the creation of RCS is to make sure that smartphones using its Android operating system do not fall behind those created by rival Apple in terms of the messaging experience that is available to users.
While iMessage can easily transition between SMS and IM depending on the nature of the recipient’s device, the same fluidity is not available on Android, meaning many millions of people turn to third-party solutions such as the aforementioned WhatsApp.
For Google the aim is to keep messaging in-house and make it possible for users to send and receive texts, pictures, videos and GIFs simply by using their phone’s standard messaging app.
Even with a company as powerful as Google behind it, the RCS platform may face an uphill struggle to make an impact on a marketplace that is already so thoroughly dominated by SMS. Since you can send SMS online just as easily as from a smartphone, with near universal compatibility available on portable devices, even if Android made the shift to RCS it would need the support of other manufacturers to succeed in a meaningful way.
This issue of orchestrating the mass adoption of RCS is perhaps the biggest barrier, because Google needs to convince network providers and a host of manufacturers from around the world to play ball, according to the Huffington Post.
That is not to say that the firm’s ambitions are not admirable; it is merely worth being realistic about the fact that billions of people send trillions of SMS messages each year, and convincing the entire world to change its current habits will not be a task that can be completed quickly.