As of last week, all Android users will now have access to a new messaging system that puts most of the Android platform text message features in line with Apple’s iMessage platform. Rich Communication Services (RCS) will be the direct replacement to the long used Google Hangouts which Google plans to sunset in 2020. RCS will allow Android users many benefits over traditional SMS. A few of the main benefits that RCS has over SMS are an 8,000 character limit compared to SMS’s 160, supports read receipts, and you can use wifi (as opposed to cell service only) to send messages.
Some of RCS’s core features have been staples on the iMessage platform for many years but Google has been hoping to unify and bring Android’s messaging platform to the 21st century for a while now by using apps such as Hangouts, Allo, and Spaces. Recently, Apple has been looking to bridge the gap between iOS users and Android users and the messaging experience that both parties use and has been in discussions with the GSMA on ways to improve cross platform communication. While RCS and iMessage are not out of the box compatible, both Apple and Android may be looking at ways to enable cross-platform next generation messaging.
Apple’s commitment to privacy may be what is holding up its adoption of RCS and cross platform communication. Apple’s iMessage is end to end encrypted which essentially means that, only the communicating users can read the messages. It prevents potential eavesdroppers – including telecom providers, Internet providers, and even the provider of the communication service – from being able to access the keys needed to decrypt the conversation. This is a huge positive in the days of digital spying and governments looking to snoop on their citizens. RCS, on the other hand, does not provide end to end encryption, it is encrypted only from the device to the central servers. This allows entities to be able to capture your conversations via several methods. In recent years, Apple has taken a hard stance on privacy and encryption. Until RCS supports a true end to end encryption, I doubt that Apple will implement RCS into its messaging platform. For the Android user, RTS still implements an additional layer of security by encrypting the message from your device to Google servers, however it falls short of iMessage’s end to end encryption.