Google started adopting a new messaging standard in their smartphones a few years ago. This new standard is called ‘Rich Communication Services’ or RCS for short and was billed as a cross-platform answer to Apple’s iMessage. The service essentially would bring read receipts, high-quality media, and more to devices, regardless of platform or carrier. However, after the announcement of the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL both Verion and T-Mobile have announced they will not support RCS at launch. It might be time to admit Google was wrong to bet on RCS as its messaging standard.
Google has long had issues building a true messaging platform they could call their own. They started with Google Talk, then on to Google Hangouts, then Android Messages, and the instantly ill-fated Google Allo. All of them served a different purpose, and they all failed miserably after some time. The only one still standing (Hangouts is still around, but is a shell of its former self) is Android Messages. Android Messages is supposed to have RCS built-in and was made to compete with Apple’s iMessage platform. The problem being is Apple has several factors working in their favor that actually makes iMessage a superior service.
For starters, iMessage utilizes a central server and is encrypted end-to-end. RCS relies on a “ping for verification” service which is run through Google servers to validate if someone is or isn’t using RCS. The problem lies in the lack of encryption which means a third party could potentially intercept your messages as they pass through those Google servers. Because RCS is tied to your phone number, it virtually kills the convenience of using Messages on non-phone devices. It also means if you are away from your phone, you have to fall back on the archaic web client to send or receive your messages.
The next step for Google, after seeing that integration of RCS is and has been a mess, should be to build a system of their own. Google has built some pretty rad apps already, so the fact they don’t have a legit iMessage competitor is puzzling. Allo was a surprisingly good start to that, and for whatever reason, Google killed their support of it. Verizon and T-Mobile will eventually build support for RCS on the Pixel 4 into their networks, but the problem of utilizing it still lingers. Android users deserve a better messaging option. While it is ambitious, RCS is not the answer. It’s Time for Google to move past it.