Samsung and Google have announced an expanded partnership to ensure that their respective Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging services play nicely with each other across platforms.
RCS, for the uninitiated, is like a next-generation SMS system that mimics most of the best features of messaging apps such as WhatsApp. The GSMA-led initiative promises to bring features such as group messaging, text-over-Wi-Fi, IP voice calls, file-sharing, read-receipts, and more to the SMS realm.
Google’s big push to embrace RCS on Android kicked off with its 2015 acquisition of Jibe Mobile, a startup that helps mobile networks embrace various messaging features in their services while supporting cross-network interoperability. And that acquisition highlighted one of the major obstacles RCS faces: To work effectively, RCS needs buy-in from mobile hardware and software makers, as well as all the mobile networks.
Back in early 2016, Google partnered with myriad mobile operators to expedite the rollout of RCS on Android. In the subsequent years, the company has racked up a bunch more partnerships to ensure that RCS can scale across all networks and Android devices, part of which has involved ensuring that its RCS-compliant Android Messages app is the default app on Android phones.
For truly universal interoperability, SMS clients from different companies need to play ball with each other, which is why Samsung and Google are working together to ensure that those using Samsung Messages and Android Messages can communicate seamlessly with each other while benefitting from RCS.
“We’ve been working with the mobile industry to upgrade the messaging experience on Android with RCS,” noted Anil Sabharwal, vice president for communications products and photos at Google. “Samsung has been a major contributor to this initiative, and our partnership will further advance our shared vision of a substantially improved messaging experience on Android for users, brands, and the broader Android ecosystem.”
The duo previously worked together to bring RCS to “select” Samsung devices, but now they are ramping up their efforts to bring this compatibility to more devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S8/S8+/S8 Active, Galaxy S9/S9+, Note8, Note9, and other A- and J-series Galaxy devices that run Android 9.0 or higher. It’s worth noting here that this will still be dependent on whether RCS is available in the user’s market and on their network.
“By furthering our robust partnership with Google, we will bring a richer messaging experience to our customers, letting them seamlessly chat with their friends and family across messaging platforms,” added Samsung executive Patrick Chomet. “This collaboration will help further the industry’s momentum toward advanced messaging and global RCS coverage.”
There is still one big obstacle that could hinder the uptake of RCS. Apple has not given any indication that it will embrace RCS anytime soon, so text messages sent between Android devices and iPhones will be stuck in the land of SMS for the forseeable future.