Google backs RCS, working with carriers to bring new messaging standard across the Android ecosystem

The advanced messaging standard is like SMS on steroids, and Google's support in Android gives it a big boost.

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Credit: Florence Ion

Texting stinks. You can’t write long messages, or send big audio or video files, or large hi-res images, or get a little interface toast to let you know that someone is typing a response. It’s stuck in the 90s!

The good news is, a broad industry standard is finally poised to replace SMS: RCS, or Rich Communication Services, which makes texting work like Apple’s iMessage.

The bad news is, RCS needs to be supported by your carrier, and your device maker, and your messaging app. That’s a lot of ecosystem to cover, so rollout has been pathetically slow. T-Mobile recently announced support for some of the RCS standard under its Advanced Messaging branding, but only for a few phones. And of course, only on T-Mobile.

In a blog post Wednesday, Google announced that it is purchasing RCS services company Jibe Mobile and throwing its weight behind the standard. It will build RCS into the foundation of Android, and work with carriers across the globe to support the standard.

This is exactly what RCS needs. With integration into Android, building SMS apps that support RCS should be dramatically easier. The bar for basic SMS service will be raised, and any device maker with an app or device that works only with old-school SMS will be considered obsolete. If the maker of the world’s largest mobile OS is petitioning carriers, support should spread there, too.

With any luck, within a year or two, you’ll be able to send RCS-based messages from any modern Android device to any other, on nearly any major carrier.

Why this matters: The capabilities of SMS fall far behind over-the-top messaging services like Hangouts, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger. But it has one major advantage: universal support. This new messaging standard should let you enjoy features similar to OTT services without requiring the person on the other end to be using the same app as you.

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