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Among the new software updates, Google is finally rolling out its long debuted RCS chat service after waiting a lot for the carriers which were dragging the collective feet or not acting at pace. But, there are exceptions like Samsung carrier that has made the message apps fully RCS-enabled. When even after pushing the carriers valiantly, they do not speed up the process of offering support for RCS chat, Google independently takes the bold move of providing the new texting experience to the Android users.
The RCS chat is the equivalent of iPhone’s iMessage service that’s designed to keep the Android users locked in the Android ecosystem. Google’s messaging strategy is still unclear, but the company has revealed a couple of things about RCS chat. Let’s dive in!
The RCS (Rich communication service) replacing the aging default SMS app on Android phones pave the way for the next-Gen of messaging where the modern features such as group chat, read receipts, high-resolution photo and video sharing, GPS location sharing, voice notes, and typing indicators will be added. Also, the users can jump directly into Google Duo from a messaging app. The best instance of the upgraded message experience will be flight check-in messages that will be packed with boarding passes and terminal maps. It delivers the messaging experience of iMessage, WhatsApp, or Facebook for all Android devices regardless of the platform.
The Android message RCS termed as a chat that will be optional for the users as they can opt-in for the service or not by responding to the prompt to upgrade the SMS to RCS chat. When the users click ‘Yes’ on chat prompt, then RCS services get enabled on the phone. When ‘Chat’ appears in the app, it shows the user is talking to someone who has already enabled RCS on the phone.
The messages in RCS chat are not end-to-end encrypted, but encrypted in transit, which indicates the RCS service provider can see the message’s content. The messages are deleted from the servers when they are delivered to the users. The RCS service will work on every phone that supports RCS universal profile.
RCS service is a complicated beast in the sense it uses a federated model where various carriers supporting RCS universal profile comes in the charge of Google’s server that delivers messages to the intended users. Due to point-driven model, when the message is sent to the chat-ready phone or the phone that’s not chat-ready, but device and carrier support RCS, then the RCS message will be delivered to the intended user. When any of the requirements are not fulfilled, the RCS message is sent to the user as the default text message.
Besides, the messages with RCS service cannot be delivered on multiple devices like- desktop, tablets, or laptop as the services are closely linked with a phone number. The service is using the phone number to send messages to the users. The web interface can be enabled with QR code scanning, but its use is limited to message editing, not as a secondary device to communicate.
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With RCS service, the users will get the fractured form of communication reinvented in the best shape. It offers everything for which the users are looking to switch to iPhone or download WhatsApp or Facebook messenger app. If you are lucky enough to reside in France and the UK, and the phone carriers supporting universal RCS program, then you will start enjoying the modernized message app in a couple of days. That’s great news!
In addition to limited roll-out, there are three disadvantages of RCS that can deter the users not use the service.
The first is unavailability of end-to-end encryption that means an intruder can read the message. The messages are deleted from the servers as soon as they are delivered to the recipient, but the files such as audio, GIF, photos, or videos in the messages without user identifiers are not deleted instantly. It’s a sign they can eavesdrop. Moreover, the company retains the metadata about the device like- IMSI, phone number, RCS client-vendor and version, and timestamps for some time, which put user privacy in question. Well, the company’s spokesperson said they are working to find a solution as it’s just a beginning.
No cross-device syncing is possible. It implies the RCS chat that’s locked with a phone number cannot occur on other devices like- desktop, laptop, or tablet akin to iMessage. The chat started on the phone cannot be continued on the laptop, the users have to stay glued to their phone.
When Google solely handles RCS, it controls the messaging that will roll out on worldwide Android’s smartphones. However, Google has kept the gates open for carriers to start supporting RCS services, where the carriers will handle the message. Here, either Google or the carriers that will be distributing the messages takes complete control over the messages. You never know when they will provide the message content to the government if demanded.
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Till now, Google is waiting for carriers to turn on RCS service, but now it’s committed to replacing the whole default message app with its service. The big initiative will be rolled out in a smaller set of markets and then gradually it will be extended worldwide if everything goes well as expected (User experience is justified). Presently, RCS is enabled for the Android users of France and the UK, and later, it will span across the globe. There is no timeline defined or any plans for the worldwide RCS rollout.
The future ahead
Google is innovating at the pace to answer its closest competitor in every way. By changing the way traditional texting is used through RCS roll out, Google will quickly gain an upper hand with better texting features and third-party services integration. The AI-voice assistant integration that users have become accustomed to, will fuel up its usage. That’s why RCS chat is projected to widen its reach and hold a tight grip on the market with advanced features.
On the flip side, the RCS chat has some side-effects (Which company has promised to overcome), expected to face carriers ire, and susceptible to the antitrust investigation, but they are far weighing down by the new replenished SMS app (The users are waiting for long).
Taking a step further, Google has allowed OEMs and carriers to embrace the protocol and rollout RCS chat on the android-powered devices to enhance the communication. It certainly helps Google to overcome RCS install-rate issues and the OEMs to increase sales by shipping the new models with the pre-installed Google message app. This step infuses life into the new message app and catalyzes the RCS chat adoption.
When the Google message is compared to iMessage, it’s not enough matured and cannot stand as a contender. At this point, the efforts are applaudable, but it will take time for Google to truly modernize its SMS app.
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