12 January 2018
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
Google is about to begin a campaign to move the mobile industry on to the next generation of messaging – and well placed industry observers expect Apple to follow this year.
The new messaging system is Rich Communications Services
(RCS), which is expected to leap ahead of 25-year-old SMS text
messaging technology by offering users video and other
Google is expected to upgrade the Android operating system to
"to change the messaging client to RCS", David
O’Byrne, the IP communications project director at
the GSMA, the mobile industry association, told Capacity.
The industry is aiming for a so-called "universal profile" that
will mean all new Android phones will be RCS-capable and
existing Android phones will be upgraded through a software
update. "It depends on Android version," said
Google – which moved into RCS in September 2015 by
buying New York-based Jibe for an undisclosed sum –
has appointed a number of companies to an Early Access Program
for RCS business messaging.
One of the companies, UK-based Esendex, said that RCS
"represents a huge leap forward in smartphone technology. For
example, when a customer books their local taxi, they
won’t just get a message to say it’s
on its way, but a map, perhaps a photograph of the driver and
even the opportunity to change the journey, all through text
But one of the issues with RCS is that Apple has still not
officially bought into the technology. This is important
because Apple has a 12.5% market share of the smartphone market
worldwide, but 34% in the US.
That will mean iPhone users will see just an obsolescent text
message on their phones if a friend or a company sends an RCS
message. "We’re working on an SMS landing page for
iPhone users," said Amy Robinson, product marketer at Esendex.
"It would give them a message with a logo, but
wouldn’t be as interactive as RCS."
According to O’Byrne, the GSMA has had meetings
with Apple about adopting RCS standards. "There’s
been lots of engagement with them" since early 2017, he told
Capacity. "We know they are getting the case for RCS."
He noted: "Google is not deploying RCS because of the goodness
of their hearts, but to keep them in the ecosystem." Apple
recognises it does not have 100% of the market for phones so
needs a technology that works across the industry.
Another industry observer, who did not want to be named, said:
"There’s been engagement with Apple about how it
is going to play with RCS. Would it be a major breakthrough for
Apple to join RCS? Yes, no question."
Robinson at Esendex said: "What will Apple do?
That’s the question that everyone wants to
For the mobile industry, it will be the second attempt to roll out RCS
– though this will be the first time with the weight
of Google behind it. In 2013 the GSMA started a project called
Joyn, but it was supported in a limited number of national
markets and failed quickly.
This time RCS won’t have its own brand, as Joyn
was, but will be simply a background upgrade of messaging
software. But now the industry is wondering how much of a
market share RCS will have. "We’re looking at
WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger as well," said Robinson.
Other companies in Google’s development programme
include 3C, Aldeamo, CLX Communications, CM Telecom, Experian,
ICF Olson, IMImobile, Impact Mobile, Link Mobility,
MessageBird, mGage, Mobivity, Movile, OpenMarket, SAP,
Silverstreet, Take, Tiaxa, Vibes, Vonage (Nexmo), Waterfall,
Zenvia, and Zipwhip.