Google has bet hard on RCS, the next-generation of SMS and MMS that incorporates modern online chat features into the GSMA developed standard. Internationally Google was hoping that international carriers would support the technology, but due to poor adoption by carriers Google is now rolling out RCS servers across the globe.
Google has been moving from region to region rolling out their own RCS service using their Jibe platform to play the role of the carrier integration. It’s similar to how Apple handles iMessage except it’s interoperable and based on an open standard, meaning you’re not technically locked into it.
We have confirmed today that RCS is indeed working for some Australians not on Telstra networks. It looks like this is a server-side switch, so even if you have the latest update you may not be seeing the enrolment message yet. For us, we only had to open Google Messages to get a notification to use Google’s RCS.
One activated you are able to send and receive Chat messages using either cellular or data connections. From a technology standpoint, RCS is can be as powerful as any modern chat app, it supports most of the features we have come to expect. The one thing it is missing is multi-device support although Google’s implementation can be used on the web as long as your device has a network connection.
What it does provide is an open, interoperable standard. If someone anywhere in the world has a mobile number, has access to RCS and is using an RCS-capable messaging client you can chat with them. It’s still a little clunky but it’s a lot better than a closed ecosystem controlled by one party like iMessage or WhatsApp.
If you’re in Australia and want to try it out, just install Google Messages on your Android device and wait for the service to be live for you. Sorry Apple users, once again your device maker has decided you don’t get access to an open standard.