Google brings RCS, a next-gen upgrade to SMS

In November, Google announced plans to bring RCS, a next-generation upgrade to SMS, and something of an iMessage alternative for Android users, to customers with Android phones on Sprint. At the time, Google said that it planned to roll out RCS to other carrier partners in the months ahead. In just over a month since the original announcement, a second carrier is coming onboard: Rogers Communications in Canada.

RCS as a technology has been around since 2007, and launched with 49 carriers worldwide, according to the GSMA. However, Sprint was the first to launch with the new RCS profile — the others had involved older iterations on the standard.

Once enabled, this new RCS profile lets Android users take advantage of an enhanced messaging experience, with features that rival iMessage such as improved group chats where you can name the group, add members, or leave the group, plus support for read receipts and typing indicators. RCS users can also share 100x larger images and videos than with MMS.

Though RCS has many features that are also available with iMessage, it has problems that Apple’s messaging platform doesn’t face. While iMessage works across the entire Apple ecosystem, RCS doesn’t work with older Android phones and is dependent on carrier adoption. With only Sprint and Rogers onboard for now, the impact of its launch remains limited.

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