Messaging is no longer an Android mess, it's an iPhone problem: Talking RCS with Hiroshi Lockheimer

Messaging is not an Android mess, it is an iPhone downside: Speaking RCS with Hiroshi Lockheimer

Max Weibach –

March 24, 2023 11am

A number of weeks in the past at MWC 2023, I had the chance to take a seat down with Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice chairman of Platforms and Ecosystems at Google, to speak about RCS messaging. Whereas there wasn’t a lot in the way forward for what Google is planning with Google Messages and RCS because the protocol, I acquired a very good have a look at how RCS got here to be and the way Google sees it.

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For some background, RCS was launched by the GSMA in 2008 as a successor to SMS. The GMSA is the International System for Cell Communications Affiliation, a gaggle of over 750 cellular operators and over 400 firms within the cellular ecosystem. The GSMA’s fundamental intention was for a contemporary communication protocol that might not work over voice networks, as a result of then and to some extent even now, SMS used the identical mobile channels as a telephone name. It was and is extraordinarily outdated, inefficient and unsafe. That is why GSMA designed RCS, to exchange the outdated platform.

A number of years after the GSMA launched RCS (and whereas apps like WhatsApp took off), Lockheimer mentioned the GSMA approached Google about the usual on the MWC. Google, investigating RCS, realized that GSMA was proper, SMS was almost 20 years previous on the time and wanted to be modernized. This was earlier than iMessage was introduced, Apple understood the identical factor and determined to roll out iMessage as a response to the outdated protocol.

This was the start of RCS for Google and the Android crew, however as Lockheimer mentioned, it is a lengthy sport, you already know, that is positively one of many learnings that you need to follow and transfer ahead. He defined that although the GSMA approached them to carry assist for RCS, the carriers had completely different concepts about how they needed to implement RCS.

In any case of that, 2015 got here and there was nonetheless no cross-carrier messaging. As an alternative, it was restricted solely by provider to provider, akin to Verizon-to-Verizon, messaging, and even particular units utilizing particular apps, akin to Verizons Messages+. For instance, in case you had a Samsung telephone from T-Cell, there was no assure that it will work with T-Cell as properly. You would wish particular telephones on particular firmware and there was no assure your mates would have entry to those. In the event you determined to get an unlocked telephone relatively than via a provider, there was no solution to entry RCS. In reality, RCS was ineffective.

The turning level for RCS was with Common Profile. The Common Profile was a set of fundamental RCS options that had been all supported equally by all carriers utilizing RCS. This included typing indicators, learn receipts, leaving group chats, lossless picture sharing, file switch, and extra. Common Profile meant that RCS would lastly go cross-carrier and considerably feature-rich! Certain, through the years some carriers have rolled out the Common Profile to some LG and Samsung telephones through customized apps, however nonetheless, the Common Profile did not matter as a result of, once more, it was exhausting to know in case you or your contacts would have entry to it, and unattainable to entry it except you purchased a telephone via a provider.

As Lockheimer defined, Google realized it might pace up this course of, it needed customers to have the ability to get this expertise by downloading an app relatively than ready for one thing they could not management to occur. It was 2019, when Google determined to implement RCS Chat. This straightforward addition to the Google Messages consumer allowed any consumer to entry probably the most fundamental options of RCS with out counting on their provider to assist Common Profile or machine OEM to assist RCS. Merely put, RCS has began to stay as much as its potential.

Now, all of that is historical past. That is how RCS was born, frankly, it does not matter. What issues is the place it goes from right here. As of Google I/O final yr, Google’s RCS service had 500 million customers, a quantity that Lockheimer says is way bigger now.

Google does not need RCS to exchange your different messaging apps

I need to begin by quoting Google right here:

Our analysis exhibits that the everyday particular person makes use of 3 to 4 messaging apps, whether or not it is WhatsApp or Snap. Is incredible. We’re not making an attempt to combine RCS into one app to rule all of them.

Hiroshi Lockheimer

One main remark with RCS extending to extra customers and prompting Apple to assist it, is third-party apps. Why not simply set up WhatsApp or Telegram or Sign? Why do you want RCS? The standard particular person does not, nevertheless it does not damage that the default is somewhat higher.

RCS on Android shouldn’t be meant to exchange the remainder of your apps. Sign continues to be the place to go in case you’re searching for extremely safe messaging. Telegram and Discord are the place you go when searching for teams or to speak to your mates. WhatsApp, Fb Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram, that is the place you go for family and friends. Google is not making an attempt to vary that; they do not need to change it; Hiroshi made that clear.

Each app has its personal goal, and Google does not suppose RCS will change that. Google simply needs one thing higher as default.

The cynical argument for why Google needs RCS to succeed

After speaking to Google about RCS Messaging, one factor grew to become clear: Google actually needs RCS to take off, exterior of the Android platform. There are various theories as to why Google may need to push RCS and have it exchange SMS because the default on units globally. Some have theorized that it is knowledge harvesting, however the end-to-end encryption enabled by default makes that unlikely. Others have theorized that Google needs it, so there’s one much less brick in Apple’s walled backyard, and that is sensible, up to a degree.

RCS doesn’t require using all options. Common Profile doesn’t require typing indicators, learn receipts, and many others. Apple might, if it needed, select which components of RCS it wish to implement. If they only needed so as to add end-to-end encryption and higher group chats, they might. This walled backyard tearing down concept falls aside when you concentrate on what Apple has the power to do to keep up the walled backyard whereas bettering security and different experiences.

I consider this merely relies on verified messages and RCS for firms. RCS for enterprise permits Google and different suppliers to promote companies entry to higher buyer messaging. As a part of Jibe, Google makes use of RCS to offer wealthy buyer switching. This could possibly be, for instance, Finest Purchase utilizing RCS to offer QR codes and the power to ship while you’re in RCS chat.

Google sells it as a service to firms for B2C (enterprise to shopper) communications, so extra units, particularly when iPhone customers are usually prepared to spend extra on their telephone, it turns into simpler to promote to firms put money into Google Jibe B2C communication providers. This together with all linked Google accounts to ship full decision pictures in Google Photographs,

Messaging is not an Android downside, it is an iPhone downside

Messaging is mounted for Android customers. In the event you exit and purchase a brand new Android telephone instantly, your default messaging consumer will seemingly be Google Messages with RCS chat. Even on older units, simply set up an official Google app from the Play Retailer.

One of many large classes I acquired from speaking to Lockheimer was fashionable messaging and the basics of RCS are labored out on Android. Android customers have entry to RCS globally with one another. It’s peer-to-peer encrypted utilizing the Sign protocol, each person-to-person and in group chats (presently in beta) of as much as 100 individuals.

Texting issues not exist for the overwhelming majority of Android customers. The issue is now for iPhone customers.

iPhone customers have iMessage Android customers have RCS. The one solution to have native cross communication primarily based on the telephone quantity is with a 20 yr previous protocol. Footage look worse, movies look worse, group chats develop into a multitude of overdue messages in teams you’ll be able to by no means go away. Plain and easy, expertise is the worst.

This protocol is not safe, which is vital as a result of some of the well-liked types of 2-factor authentication is through a textual content message. RCS permits firms to make use of RCS Common Profile with the Sign protocol to encrypt these messages. Which means, in concept, prospects utilizing two components with Android might have extra safety than iPhone customers. Realistically, this hasn’t been applied but and certain will not till it is definitely worth the funding, which it will be if iOS supported RCS.

As Hiroshi mentioned:

Because you talked about Apple, I am going to simply point out that they speak about how privateness is a human proper and the way vital it’s to them. I really feel like, look here’s a expertise accessible now Now I am simply sorry iPhone customers will expertise the degraded options, it will be nice if they might carry that to them. And in addition higher safety for them. You realize that Android customers are superb, texting one another securely and all that, and now it is sort of weird as a result of now after they work together with iPhones, they will face a degraded safety expertise.

He is proper. There’s a lot to the RCS debate and whether or not Apple ought to assist it, many tech fanatics and people within the trade point out the till not too long ago horrendous expertise as a foundation for why they should not, however as I mentioned earlier than, that is about it. historical past. It does not matter the way it occurred, what issues is how they proceed. Nobody is asking that every one Apple apps on Android be capable to hold them. What Google needs, what customers need, and what I would like is straightforward: one thing higher and safer than SMS.

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