Your friend with the iPhone has all these cool things like stickers and typing indicators and read receipts. So why doesn’t your phone? It’s because Apple Messages is running its own proprietary system, and your phone is likely using just SMS. But there’s a new protocol in town that will help bring some of those features to more phones. Here are five things to know about rich communication services (RCS).

  1. RCS stands for rich communication services. It’s a successor to SMS that supports read receipts, typing indicators, improved group chats, and high-quality images. It does not support end-to-end encryption. Services like Signal, iMessage, and WhatsApp have similar features, but run their own system.
  2. RCS relies on a technical standard called the Universal Profile. The standard defines a way to tell other phones that it can send and receive RCS.
  3. Google is making RCS chat Android’s primary texting platform in the US. Google has already done so in the UK and France. All you need is Android Messages. To do this, Google is running its own RCS servers with Universal Profile support.
  4. Mobile carriers in the US do not yet (mostly) offer RCS. So this can be confusing. US carriers formed the Cross-Carrier Messaging Initiative or CCMI to support Universal Profile and RCS with a new app coming in 2020.
  5. Synchronoss Technologies and WIT Software have been chosen as the companies to build the carrier’s network and app. These two companies built Japan’s RCS network, which launched in 2018. An Android app is coming in 2020, with something promised for iOS sometime later.

There’s a ways to go before all this is working on the majority of phones, and there will most definitely be some bumps in the road. But, once it’s up and running, more people can do more things with their default messaging app.

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