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Google sends text via RCS (Apple's rival)

by July 23, 2020No Comments

The mobile industry is excited about RCS, the smart replacement for the 25-year-old SMS. But the industry has been here before, Alan Burkitt-Gray warns, and there are still details to be worked out, such as the business model and whether Apple will join.

Google has kicked off the mobile industry's latest attempt to build a successor to SMS text messaging and, more importantly for mobile carriers, a rival to Apple's iMessage, as well as Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, WeChat. WhatsApp and the rest: mobile services the industry still thinks of depriving them of their income and their customers.

The problem is that people in the messaging industry are still not clear on the revenue model for the so-called Rich Communications Service (RCS), which is expected to launch in 2018.

Some believe RCS will be best for person-to-person (P2P) messaging; others say its strength will be in person-to-person (A2P) messaging. Some argue it will be an alternative to the mobile web, looking for local pizzerias or buying tickets. Others hope it will become the new medium for mobile payments. It is usually free to receive SMS messages, but no one is sure that the same applies to RCS. This is a clue, if you ever needed it, that there is no clearly developed business model yet. Dean Bubley, a notoriously cynical commentator on Disruptive Analysis, tells Capacity: "He's putting the chariot in front of the horse."

I phoned Bubley after posting on LinkedIn a list of reasons why she was happy not to go to the Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year in Barcelona. "What, RCS zombies again?" he wrote.

Which “again” refers to RCS's latest release at MWC, in February 2013, when GSMA, the trade association running the event, launched it under the name of Joyn, hoping it would go global.

Soon Orange in France had Joyn, but I checked in August 2013 and he was still shunned by the three rival French operators. In Germany Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone had adopted Joyn in August, but not O2 or E-Plus, then owned by KPN. There was better news from Spain, where Telefónica's Orange, Vodafone and Movistar offered Joyn, and from South Korea, where KT, LG U + and SK Telecom were all thrilled.

But that was it, and the industry left Joyn silently disappear. Go to, once the Joyn official website and the RCS services directory, and you will come to the GSMA home page. takes you to the regular Orange home page. Nothing to see here: George Orwell couldn't have done better.

“RCS has been around for so long and it's never gotten anywhere,” that's how Nick Lane, Mobilesquared's mobile insight analyst, sums up the story so far. But five years have passed and something has changed. “Google has had a great succession of attempts to create their own messages, but they have largely weakened,” says Bubley.

Google is taking over and integrating it with Android messaging. "

Greg Collins
Apple has its own rich messaging service, iMessage, for its iOS operating system, but Google's Android has no such thing. I still have the Google Hangouts app on my phone, which once handled SMS as well as voice and video calls, but the SMS feature disappeared in late 2016. This is because, in 2015, Google bought a New York company. , Jibe, for a secret sum up with the idea that he might restart his messaging effort.

“Google is taking on the role and integrating it with Android messaging,” says Greg Collins, founder of market intelligence firm Exact Ventures. "It's still the early days."

Google has industry backing, says Joanne Lacey, COO of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum (MEF, but not the former Metro Ethernet Forum, which uses the same initials). It lists "two or three carriers" as well as the GSMA and in particular Samsung as organizations that "should be included in the revival."

Gregory Hoy,

RCS messaging product management director at OpenMarket, says T-Mobile US and Vodafone are prominent supporters. Others indicate that Orange has significant influence behind the scenes.

There is some vagueness in the industry as to how RCS will be introduced. Some believe it can be added to cell phones as part of an over-the-air system upgrade, but more importantly, it will be rolled out when people buy new phones. “Vodafone has an RCS-compatible client on most [new] laptops,” says Hoy. “Slowly Google has introduced RCS into Android messaging and is registering phone vendors,” says Collins. “Huawei is putting it on its phones. It's another way to consolidate the Android ecosystem “.

Android is the dominant mobile operating system in much of the world, with a market share of around 82-87%, according to IDC, and Apple's iOS picks up almost everything else - with Microsoft's Windows Phone lost in the noise. under 1%.

It's different in the US, where iOS has a share of around 55%, according to Statcounter. In Canada and the UK, Android and iOS are more or less the same. But they are unusual, even in developed countries: in France and Germany iOS has a share of around 32%.

This gives Google, as Android's patron, the opportunity to put a native messaging feature on its operating system, with the further hope that this will allow the company to gain market share from other messaging companies. If it succeeds with the support of mobile operators and the GSMA, it would give Google an edge that Facebook and others don't have.

Phone on support with WhatApp graphics


Phone on stand displaying WhatApp graphics


What will Apple do?

But the big question is: what will Apple do? Apple, of course, isn't saying that. Apple observers study the stars and try to deduce the future. One of those who attended last November's Messaging and SMS World conference, run by Capacity in association with the MEF, hinted that GSMA is having fruitful talks with Apple.

I followed up with David O'Byrne, director of the IP communications project at GSMA, who told me in January that the trade association had meetings with Apple about adopting the RCS standards. "There has been a lot of involvement with them" since early 2017. "We know they are getting the case for RCS." Apple acknowledges that it does not have the 100% of the telephony market, so it needs technology that works across the industry.

Another industry observer, who did not want to be named, says, “There has been a commitment with Apple about how it will play with RCS. Would it be a big breakthrough for Apple to join RCS? Yes No questions."

Others echo it, although Lane at Mobilesquared is more cautious. "Apple is reluctant to join the RCS bandwagon," he says, but adds that he has a problem when Apple users try to send an iMessage to others. Instead, they receive a simple and clear text message. He believes that “iMessage's 60% falls on SMS”.

"If RCS is on the native client, they will start learning how to use it."

Gregory Hoy
Rob Malcolm, vice president of marketing and online sales at CLX, a messaging company that partners with Google in the RCS ecosystem, believes Apple will jump on the bandwagon: “My take is that they want to support open standards. In some countries, such as Brazil and South Africa, Android is dominant by some margin. If RCS takes off in those markets, it will follow Apple ”.

How? By including RCS in a future iOS update, let's say those in the know, which will be loaded into new Apple phones and possibly added via an over-the-air update to existing phones. The potential strength of RCS, enthusiasts say, is that it will become the natural messaging app for smartphones. “If RCS is on the native client, they'll start learning how to use it,” says Hoy. "We are only at the beginning, but the RCS client is backwards compatible so that we can communicate with someone who does not have it."

This makes it different from most competing messaging apps. If you want to send a WhatsApp to someone, they must first download WhatsApp. It's the same with WeChat or Facebook Messenger or Snapchat. It means we have to bring a mental directory: “Alice on WhatsApp or WeChat? Is Bob still a Facebook Messenger user or is he back to receiving SMS? What about Carol?

It's changing.

On my phone, Facebook Messenger now shows incoming SMS and as far as I know it probably works the other way around, but I don't remember the last time I texted. I only get them from my mobile operator, Tre, to notify me of rates when I land in foreign countries, from Amazon and supermarkets to inform me about deliveries, and from my dentist, doctor, and ottomologist who reminds me of appointments - hardly anyone from humans.

For family and work, WhatsApp is the preferred platform. And that's the challenge that RCS will face, not just weaning people off the 25-year-old SMS messaging platform because, look, something better has entered the system. Although this underhanded introduction will make it difficult for the industry to talk about it.

“Why should I pass by Whatsapp? " asks Bubley. "I can't imagine anyone transitioning from Snapchat."

However, Lane at Mobilesquared estimates that by the end of this year there will be 162 mobile operators offering RCS and 299 by the end of 2018. In 2022, 492 operators will offer RCS and there will be three billion RCS devices in use, of which 2.5 billion will be Android, he thinks.

However, by 2022 itself, just over 11% of A2P traffic will be shifted to RCS, Lane says.

The rest will still be in SMS, a technology pioneered on December 3, 1992 when 22-year-old developer Neil Papworth of Sema - now Mavenir - sent a message to his client, Richard Jarvis of Vodafone, saying “Merry Christmas”.

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