Google committed to RCS — an Android texting upgrade — in a big way this February when they announced that they would start pre-loading RCS texting into all their Android phones. RCS will replace SMS (short message service), the current texting standard.
“SMS hasn’t evolved to take advantage of all the features that smartphones enable today,” Google’s Todd Parker said on a recent panel at the 2017 MoNage conference. “We believe it’s important to innovate in messaging standards, so we’ve been working to upgrade SMS through a universal standard called RCS, bringing more enhanced features to the standard messaging experience on mobile devices.”
Wait, what’s RCS?
RCS, or Rich Communication Service, is a texting standard just like SMS and MMS, only more evolved — it allows you to send images, rich media, emojis, “typing” indicators, location share, and more. Think: iMessage for Android. The industry sees it as the next step in a natural progression of texting.
How come I’ve never heard of RCS?
It doesn’t show up in the app store. That’s because it’s built into the native texting app. You don’t realize you’re using it, similar to the same way people didn’t realize they were using iMessage – Apple’s instant messaging feature. In 2011, Apple quietly released the feature, which displays blue text bubbles when the user is corresponding with another Apple user, and green bubbles when they are replying to an Android user.
“TechCrunch isn’t writing sexy articles about RCS, yet it’s where all the dollars are at,” Zipwhip CEO John Lauer said at MoNage. It’s true — the native texting app is the most widely used app and the only messaging app that comes installed by default on the phone the moment you walk out of the store. If there’s a lack of data on the native texting app, that’s because it doesn’t show up in the app store.
“Once out the door [the native texting app] ends up with a nearly 95% use rate,” Parker said.
How big is the market?
Google says there are over 1.4 billion active Android devices.
But what about other apps like Facebook Messenger?
There are a variety of messaging apps out there with an even wider variety of features, including posts that disappear after a certain amount of time, or the ability to post anonymously.
“Messaging apps act like fashion,” Zipwhip CEO John Lauer said. “Bell bottoms got really huge and sort of disappeared… Like fashion trends, fun and sexy apps get disrupted. But texting is a utility, like water, electricity, or breathing oxygen. Texting has staying power.”
While it’s true that millennials live and breathe on Facebook, it turns out that Generation Zers perceive Facebook as less cool than a number of other brands. Gen Z lives on Snapchat and Kik. And that changes depending on where you are in the world — Chinese teens and twenty-somethings are on WeChat and Whatsapp.
“Texting is a utility, like water, electricity, or breathing oxygen.”
“This game has just started,” Oisin “Mr. Empathy” Lunny said at MoNage. “This is the very beginning. I think there will be different messaging apps for different ages, different uses, so forth.”
What does this mean for my business?
“RCS will upgrade today’s business messaging experience by enabling brands to send more useful and interactive messages,” writes Amir Sarhangi, Google’s head of RCS.
Lauer advised conference attendees, business owners, and chatbot developers to “go where the dollars are” with texting and “seriously consider if Facebook Messenger will matter in a few years.” In other words, prioritize utility over fashion.