Google and Norwegian carrier Telenor partnered today to give Android users Rich Communication Services (RCS) in Europe and Asia. Although SMS is the standard for mobile messaging, it’s just plain text. RCS is one of many attempts to offer a more enhanced messaging experience out of the box.
The default SMS app on Android — unless the carrier decides to change it — is called Messenger. Google is using this app to push its implementation of RCS so that Android phones can offer features like group messaging, IP voice calls, and file-sharing. The service is powered by the Jibe RCS cloud (Google acquired Jibe in September 2015).
Google brought RCS to Sprint users (U.S.) in November and Rogers users (Canada) in December. Telenor is the third carrier to come into the fold, which is a big deal given that its services are not limited to just one country.
Starting today, Telenor customers with Android phones are getting features like group chat, high-resolution photo sharing, and read receipts. The carrier is bringing RCS to its 214 million subscribers across Europe and Asia, including in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Montenegro, Serbia, Bulgaria, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, and India.
All customers need to do is download the latest version of Messenger for Android from Google Play. Much like Google’s deal with Sprint and Rogers, Telenor’s partnership also includes preloading Messenger as the standard messaging app for new Android devices next year.
While Google is certainly making headway, it will be years before a significant number of Android users have access to RCS. Furthermore, carriers are implementing the standard in different ways. So far, Google has three on board, but there’s no indication other carriers want to use Google’s RCS. It’s also unfortunate that the company is pushing Messenger on these new Android phones, instead of one unified messaging app.