SMS is giving up the ghost
Once upon a time people actually used their phones to talk to each other. With their voices. Today, people all over world would rather send one another hand-typed messages than make a phone call. Who would have ever thought that an arguably less convenient and more time consuming alternative would end up being the dominant method of communication?
Messengers are having their day in the sun. Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp (basically Facebook), Line, Snapchat- you name it. Players both big and small are fighting to be your go-to solution for messaging. Having so many options might seem like a good idea at first. But what happens in the case where different groups of friends use different apps? One would then have to download multiple apps just to keep up with everyone. Or what about when a new chat app comes out that you try and begin to love? Now you have to convince your loved ones to download yet another app they probably haven’t heard of or care about just to talk to you.
What use is a messaging app if you’re the only one using it?
That’s where SMS shines. It’s a standard that has been around for decades and allows basically any phone to send and receive text messages. When SMS was later extended with MMS we were granted the additional ability to send images, audio, and video to each other. All without the need to download an app or sign in to any service. But time went on, smartphones became a thing, and OTT (Over The Top) services began popping up all over the place. We were now living in a world of always-connected devices and these apps showed us what messaging in the world of always-connected devices could be like. What it should be like. These apps added more and more features yet SMS/MMS didn’t seem to be keeping up. It was still the same old experience. At times they were sluggish, there was no way to know if your message had even reached its intended recipient, attached media–particularly video and photos–were often sent compressed, group chats were absolutely awful. Now these may not sound like a huge deal, but when stacked up against something like iMessage, these shortcomings aren’t so easily overlooked.
This is what makes RCS so exciting. It allows everyone to have a rich messaging experience without the overhead of having to sign up for a service or download a third party app. It’s like SMS except it doesn’t suck.
Want read receipts? Got ’em.
Delivery confirmation? You betcha.
Group chats that won’t make you want to pull your hair out? Done.
Typing indicators? Yup, now you too can experience the anxiety of watching that gray bubble linger, disappear, then never come back.
It’s basically iMessage but for everybody.
There have been attempts in the past to make RCS mainstream but none of them were ever really a hit. Plus they were only kinda RCS. That’s because up until recently there was no real standard for RCS providers to adhere to. Because of that, providers had different implementations of RCS and they weren’t always compatible.
The GSMA has finally released what is referred to as the Universal Profile. Taken straight from the horse’s mouth: “The Universal Profile (UP) is an industry-agreed common set of features and technical enablers for Advanced Communications.” This gives providers a basic set of rules to adhere to so that any app supporting RCS will be compatible with any other. As of today there over 46 network operators agreeing to support the Universal Profile. For those of us in the U.S., at least three of our major four carriers are on board (AT&T is curiously missing).
With Universal Profile being backed so many major companies the future of messaging is looking bright.