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RCS vs. iMessage – which is better? «Smartphones :: Gadget Hacks

You've probably heard of RCS news. The new standard was advertised by Google in response to iMessage and is the backbone of the new "chat" features in Android news. With RCS, Android phones can now communicate better than iPhone users for years ̵

1; but is it really the same?

RCS stands for Rich Communication Services. Think of it as a replacement for the old SMS standard – messaging is based on your phone number, but it's enhanced by the power of the web. Instead of using SMS networks, your messages will be transmitted over cellular data and Wi-Fi, and this will massively change the way it works.

However, RCS is more than just a copy of iMessage. RCS messages have some serious benefits that may make them even better than iMessage. In a few years, almost all smartphone users in the US will be covered. And when this happens, iPhone users may be jealous of the green bubble and not the other way round.

Similarities between RCS and iMessage

When the GSM Association released the first RCS Universal Profile in November 2016, they set out to improve SMS delivery in every respect. With Apple's iMessage unavailable for several years and a gold standard for messaging, the GSM Association has added some of the enhancements that Apple has added to the platform, which it hopes will replace SMS in the not-too-distant future.

Both platforms work over the Internet, meaning that messages are sent and received using cellular data. This change also allows you to send a message over Wi-Fi if your mobile data signal is weak or if you have little data (though we imagine that mobile operators did not add this to your monthly pay as they did at iMessage). ,

Due to the use of data, messages can be sent across devices so you can start a conversation on your phone and continue on your computer or tablet. As long as you're signed in to the same account, you can talk to users everywhere.

On both platforms, you can receive a visual read receipt indicating when messages are read by the recipient. This feature is optional and can be disabled in the settings. Both RCS and iMessage support bindings, so you can see when the participant enters a message.

Group Chat is another feature shared between the two messaging platforms. Both let you assign group names, add or remove users, see when users join, mute notifications, and leave the group. Tip indicators are still available so you know when a member writes a message. As with a one-to-one message, files can be shared with group members, including audio messages and pictures accessible to all group members. You can also share your location with users, both in a group chat and in a one-to-one message.

Both support chatboxes. When companies integrate their service into the platform, users can write bots for messages in an app-like experience. Users can interact with features of the app, such as: B. make purchases and call the company number. If the messaging contains something that is not possible, the bot will redirect you to a specific page to continue the action.

Differences between RCS and iMessage

Both platforms have many things in common There are some differences. The most important advantage of RCS (and the difference to iMessage) is that it works with any phone. Although Apple will need support for its devices, Google was a backbone of this new SMS standard and even bought Jibe Mobile. Using the Jibe Cloud platform, Google has helped operators get started quickly with RCS by providing them with an opportunity to implement interoperability.

Because of this effort, RCS messaging works on all phones. As long as the wireless service provider, the device manufacturer, and the operating system support this feature, messages can be shared with this new standard.

Unlike iMessage, which is limited to Apple devices, RCS messages can be sent on Android phones. Apple is currently in talks with the GSM Association to include support for RCS on iPhones. If these discussions prove fruitful, Apple users can have iMessage-style conversations, regardless of whether the recipient is an Android or an iPhone device.

With so many moving parts, RCS has seen a much slower acceptance rate than Apple's introduction of iMessage, but at the time of writing, the US is almost there. Sprint, US Cellular and Google Fi have adopted the universal profile. Verizon and T-Mobile will be available soon, with only AT & T participants in the dark.

Another important difference is the encryption or lack of encryption in RCS. While the GSM Association originally wanted to include end-to-end encryption (E2E), it was dropped in Universal Profile. Although RCS uses encryption while the message is being transmitted, this is not the same as end-to-end encryption because messages can be unencrypted at certain times. These may be the network providers and app providers, that is, there are participants who can theoretically access your messages. iMessage is E2E encrypted so messages can not be read from leaving your phone until you reach the recipient's phone.

Then there are the small advantages that each platform has over the other. Group chat in iMessage is limited to 33 members. RCS has 100 members. Apple iMessage limits file transfer to 25 MB. The RCS limit is four times higher at 100 MB. Currently, Android users can use multiple apps to run RCS messages.

All RCS-compatible Android devices can use Android messages. Samsung devices can also use Samsung Messages, and Japanese subscribers can use + Message. A future version of Android will add an API for RCS. From now on, all third-party messaging apps can use RCS. iMessage is limited to Apple's news app.

Since iMessage has not been available for years, hundreds of companies are already integrated into the service. RCS has much less business as the rollout is still ongoing. In addition to businesses, iMessage also has several app integrations that enhance the user experience. These additions can include stickers, games that you can play with friends, the ability to send money, and much more. None of these features are currently part of the Universal profile, but can be added later.

With iMessage you can also Create handwritten notes that you can share with others. You can reply to messages with an expression by tapping the message twice and selecting the tapback you want to send. There are also bubble effects and screen effects that animate your messages. There is support for animoji messages and camera effects to liven up the photos and videos you send. Digital Touch lets you send sketches, taps and even a heartbeat to others.

iMessage is definitely the most feature rich, mature platform. Over time, however, all of these and other features could be added to RCS. The standard itself has already paved the way for adding such features.

For example, RCS supports Universal Profile 2.2 plugins. Plugins are similar to iMessage apps in the sense that they can add features and download them in a "store". There are two types of plugins, unidirectional, requiring only the sender, and bidirectional, which requires all parties. With these plugins, users of RCS News can add games, stickers, and more. It is even theoretically possible to add a plug-in for end-to-end encryption to remove this barrier from RCS messages.

RCS is much more than messaging

RCS does not stop the differences here. There are several features that will be released later. RCS is a service that is not limited to sending messages. It actually includes phone calls and video calls. With RCS, all phone calls are VoIP. These calls can be made using LTE (or 5G) data or Wi-Fi. Video calls are also possible in both networks.

The difference is that all of this can be integrated into an app. If you are currently making a call in iMessage, the phone app will be redirected to you to make the call. The same applies to video chat and FaceTime app.

This could change with RCS. You can make data-based calls within the app. This may mean that new apps (and updates to the current app) combine the features of Messaging and the phone app in one configuration (similar to Google Voice). In addition to audio and video calls, a visual voice mail is also required, which is also included in the platform.

RCS is a game changer for companies. RCS can improve the way companies interact with users and make sending messages an option with a much higher interaction rate. With RCS, you can now buy tickets for the movies with custom branding and a high-resolution image. First, the message can be sent with a verified ID so that users know that it comes from a particular company rather than a series of random numbers. Quick responses may be available to facilitate interaction with the business. Buttons can also be provided to perform simple actions, such as calling the cinemas to confirm or change movie times.

Image via Google Developer

The potential of RCS is great. While iMessage users enjoy many of these amenities for years, RCS opens them to the rest of the world. RCS will not only benefit Android users, but may also benefit Windows and Linux PCs and even Apple users. Due to its potential, it can be extended exponentially.

This article was created during the special coverage of gadget hacks via SMS, instant messaging, phone calls and audio / video chats with your smartphone. Take a look at the entire chat series.

Do not miss: Everything you need to know about RCS Universal Profile

Cover image and screenshots of Jon Knight / Gadget Hacks

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