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April 25, 2022

What is RCS Messaging? A Complete Guide

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RCS messaging standardizes these types of next-generation messaging features and makes them available within a single, universal application.

Though it’s made up of many features most of us already use without a second thought, RCS messaging is pretty revolutionary in its capabilities and implications for messaging as we know it. An upgrade from traditional SMS messaging, RCS enables users to send rich media like videos and GIFs, react to messages, view read receipts, and more. 

For our purposes, the biggest concern is the implication RCS messaging has for businesses and how they’re able to communicate with customers. As you might guess, RCS messaging changes the game, empowering brands to elevate the customer experience and communicate on a more personal, engaging level. Read on to learn all about this exciting new platform.

What is RCS messaging?

If you’re an avid smartphone user, you’ve probably employed a variety of apps to communicate with friends and family: iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Telegram, to name a few. And if you’ve used more than one of these apps, you’ve probably noticed that their features are all a little bit different and go beyond the scope of the old-fashioned text message. You can send animated emojis, for example, or react to another user’s message with a response like a set of fireworks or a laughing unicorn. 

RCS messaging standardizes these types of next-generation messaging features and makes them available within a single, universal application. Using the RCS Universal Profile protocol, a device on a North American mobile carrier like T-Mobile can message a totally different device on a carrier on the other side of the world like Japan’s Docomo, with no loss of context or content. It’s not only convenient, but crucial for having meaningful conversations across devices, mobile networks and international borders. 

The technical details are a bit more complex and we’ll get into some of them below. But broadly speaking, the beauty of RCS messaging is the ability to send feature-rich, universally readable messages.

SMS versus RCS messaging

RCS messaging vs. SMS

SMS is the dinosaur of messaging. It’s been around since the 1990s and its features have remained mostly, surprisingly, unchanged since then. 

Because of this, you’ve probably run into at least one wonky situation or another when trying to send a text message, like not being able to send a photo to someone on a different network or having a long message arrive in several smaller, jumbled-up fragments. SMS is great, but it definitely has limitations. 

RCS is designed to alleviate these limitations, bringing the rich functionality of chat messages sent on other, more modern platforms to mobile devices of all kinds. RCS messaging turns your standard text messaging experience into a more visual, engaging and interactive one. 

Here are a few of the major differences between SMS and RCS. RCS messaging:

  • Doesn’t have a 160-character limit
  • Displays read receipts and typing indicators
  • Supports video calls
  • Enables branded messages
  • Offers wide group chat functionalities
  • Allows sending and receiving higher quality images than SMS or MMS
  • Allows sending and receiving documents
  • Offers location sharing
  • Offers end-to-end encryption
  • Verifies senders
  • Can take place over WiFi

Now, you may be saying, ‘but my phone already does all those things!’ and that may be true. If so, it’s likely because your device either already has RCS messaging built-in, which most new phones do, or you’re using an iPhone, which relies on the built-in iMessage app for similar functionality. If you were using an older device that relies on SMS, you’d run into a lot of trouble trying to communicate with another person who tried to use the above features. 

Like SMS, RCS takes place over a native messaging app that comes pre-installed on your phone. This means you don’t have to download any third-party apps to use it the way you do with social media chat platforms like Facebook Messenger.

what is RCS messaging

How RCS messaging works

This is where things can start to get weedy. If you’re just looking for a basic understanding of what RCS is and what it’s used for, you may want to skip this section. But if you’d like to learn a little more about how it functions and why it’s so groundbreaking, you’ll find further details below. 

RCS stands for Rich Communication Suite. It’s the product of a messaging initiative from the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association, or GSMA, which is an organization made up of representatives from mobile carriers from around the world. 

The GSMA set out to establish a set of standards that would ensure interconnectivity between devices and carriers–AKA the global messaging capabilities we touched on earlier. The outcome was the creation of RCS. 

RCS works using a Universal Profile, which is a single set of features to be used by every RCS-enabled app or device. Because the features are universal, they can be sent, received, and understood by anyone using the RCS standard. 

A better way of explaining this would be to imagine trying to send a message from WhatsApp to a user on Facebook Messenger. It can be done, but the features aren’t exactly the same and some content might get lost or distorted in translation. Between two devices using RCS messaging, however, this loss of context or content wouldn’t be a problem (and there would be no third-party apps involved, just the phone’s native messaging app). And, as we already mentioned, RCS comes standard on all Android devices. 

Now, what about iPhones? This is where things get even more complicated. RCS seems like a great idea, right? After all, it removes many of the communication barriers that have been frustrating SMS users for years. But at the time of this post, iPhones do not support RCS in any manner. 

For iPhone users messaging other iPhone users, this won’t be a problem. All of the features you’re likely to want come standard within the native iMessage app. If you see blue bubbles when texting someone, you’re using iMessage. 

But if the messaging takes place between an RCS-messaging Android user and an iPhone user (green bubbles instead of blue), you’ll be kicked right back to old-fashioned SMS, because the two systems aren’t compatible. Industry leaders have advocated for Apple to make iMessage interoperable with RCS, bridging the gap between Android and iOS devices once and for all, but there’s yet to be any indication that the company plans to do so. 

And now, you know more than you ever wanted to know about the inner workings of rich messaging.

The Impact of RCS on Business Messaging

You’re probably already starting to see how RCS messaging’s rich nature and universal capabilities present an exciting opportunity for businesses. That opportunity gets even more compelling when you take into account how the platform can integrate with other apps and mobile functionalities. 

RCS offers a specialized set of tools for businesses known as RCS Business Messaging, or RBM. With these tools, companies can send customers messages, media, event reminders and more based on various triggers. Those triggers can be manual, like a customer sending a support request via chat, or automatic, like events that occur in other apps. An API allows those apps to communicate with the RBM interface. 

Here are a few examples:

  • A lunchtime event reminder is sent to subscribers when you update your daily lunch specials on your website
  • A calendar event is sent to customers with their due date when a new bill is issued
  • A location-specific service alert is sent to utility customers when they press a website button requesting outage updates 
  • A troubleshooting video is sent to a user live chatting with a virtual agent

The possibilities are virtually endless, and it can have a big impact on the overall customer experience. Here are a few more of the benefits of RCS messaging for businesses.

Standardized Conversations

For most brands, the messaging experience is fragmented and inconsistent between different customers. RCS helps standardize things, ensuring more streamlined interactions from one customer to the next. 

Enhanced Chats

RCS improves the conversational experience by leaps and bounds. With the ability to send rich media and other interactive pieces of content, customers feel less like they’re talking to a company and more like they’re chatting with a friend or family member, resulting in greater feelings of brand affinity. 

Less Competition

There are countless messaging apps available to consumers today. RCS combines the features users love most from all of them, offering the convenience of just one platform to interact with companies instead of dividing users’ attention across several different apps. 

Greater Reach

RCS’ interoperability helps brands achieve global reach. Thanks to RCS messaging, you can send a consistent message to a user on a mobile carrier in the United States and one using a totally different carrier on the other side of the globe. It’s more accessible for more people. 

Better User Experience

RCS messaging eliminates many of the ‘buggy’ characteristics of SMS that can dilute a brand’s message and detract from its effectiveness.

Frequently asked questions

What does RCS mean in messaging?

RCS stands for Rich Communication Suite. It’s a step up from conventional SMS messaging that enables rich features like high-resolution photos and videos, file sharing, payments, location sharing and more. 

What is RCS messaging Google?

RCS is a messaging standard used by Google Messages. It gives users expanded functionality, including many of the rich features available on messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and WeChat. 

What is the difference between SMS and RCS?

SMS and RCS are both types of communication protocols. SMS is a much more basic, text-only form, while RCS enables text as well as more advanced, feature rich messages that contain content like images, GIFs, videos, typing indicators, read receipts and more.  

How do I know if I have RCS messaging?

To use RCS messaging, you’ll need an Android device. Then, check whether your phone uses an RCS-based messaging app. Google Messages, which is the native messaging app on most Android devices, uses RCS.

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About LiveVox

LiveVox (Nasdaq: LVOX) is a next generation contact center platform that powers more than 14 billion omnichannel interactions a year. By seamlessly unifying blended omnichannel communications, CRM, AI, and WEM capabilities, the Company’s technology delivers exceptional agent and customer experiences, while helping to mitigate compliance risk. With 20 years of cloud experience and expertise, LiveVox’s CCaaS 2.0 platform is at the forefront of cloud contact center innovation. The Company has more than 650 global employees and is headquartered in San Francisco, with offices in Atlanta; Columbus; Denver; New York City; St. Louis; Medellin, Colombia; and Bangalore, India. To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox or visit livevox.com.

To stay up to date with everything LiveVox, follow us at @LiveVox, visit www.livevox.com or call one of our specialists at (844) 207-6663.

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