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

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

Max Weinbach –

March 24, 2023 11:00 a.m.

Just a few weeks in the past at MWC 2023, I had the chance to take a seat down with Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vp of platforms and ecosystems at Google, to speak about RCS messaging. Whereas there is not a lot in the way forward for what Google is planning with Google Messages and RCS as a protocol, I’ve an excellent understanding of how RCS was born and the way Google sees it.

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As a reminder, the RCS was launched by the GSMA in 2008 as a successor to the SMS. The GMSA is the International System for Cell Communications Affiliation, a gaggle with over 750 cell operators and over 400 firms within the cell ecosystem. The principle intention of the GSMA was to create a contemporary communication protocol that didn’t work over voice networks, as a result of then and to some extent now texting used the identical mobile channels as a cellphone name. It was and is extraordinarily outdated, inefficient, and insecure. For this reason the GSMA designed RCS, to switch the out of date platform.

Just a few years after the GSMA launched RCS (and apps like WhatsApp took off), Lockheimer stated the GSMA approached Google about the usual at MWC. Google, whereas investigating RCS, realized that the GSMA was proper, SMS was then nearly 20 years previous and wanted to be modernized. It was earlier than iMessage was introduced, Apple realized the identical and determined to implement iMessage as a solution to the growing older protocol.

This was the beginning of RCS for Google and the Android workforce however as Lockheimer stated it is a lengthy recreation you already know it is one of many learnings for certain it’s a must to stick to and proceed one way or the other. He defined that though the GSMA had approached them to supply help for RCS, carriers had totally different concepts on how they needed to implement RCS.

In any case that, 2015 got here round and there was nonetheless no cross-carrier messaging. As an alternative, it was restricted to carrier-to-carrier solely, like Verizon to Verizon, to messaging, and even to particular gadgets utilizing particular apps, like Verizons Messages+. For instance, in case you had a Samsung cellphone from T-Cell, there was no assure that it could even work with T-Cell. You would want particular telephones on particular firmwares and there was no assure that your pals would even have entry to them. In case you determined to get an unlocked cellphone fairly than via a service, there was no approach to entry the RCS. Certainly, the RCS was value nothing.

The turning level for RCS was with Common Profile. Common Profile was a core set of RCS options that had been all supported equally by all operators utilizing RCS. This included typing indicators, learn receipts, exiting group chats, lossless picture sharing, file switch, and extra. The common profile meant that the RCS would lastly turn out to be multi-operator and feature-rich in a big means! Certain, some carriers rolled out the Common Profile to some LG and Samsung telephones via customized apps over time, however the Common Profile did not matter as a result of, once more, it was unclear whether or not you or your contacts would have entry to it, and unimaginable to entry it in case you didn’t purchase a cellphone by way of an operator.

As Lockheimer defined, Google realized that this might velocity this up, they needed to verify customers may get that have by downloading an app fairly than ready for one thing they could not management occur. It was in 2019 when Google determined to roll out RCS Chat. This straightforward addition to the Googles Messages shopper allowed any consumer to entry essentially the most fundamental options of RCS with out counting on their service to help Common Profile or the OEM of the system to help RCS. Merely put, RCS has began to dwell as much as its potential.

Now, all of that’s 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 switch your different messaging apps

I wish to begin by quoting Google right here:

Our analysis exhibits {that a} typical particular person makes use of 3-4 messaging apps, whether or not WhatsApp or Snap. That is nice. We weren’t making an attempt to construct RCS into one app to rule all of them.

Hiroshi Lockheimer

One of many primary feedback with RCS rolling out to extra customers and pushing Apple to help it’s with third-party apps. Why not simply set up WhatsApp or Telegram or Sign? Why do you want RCS? The everyday particular person does not, but it surely does not harm that the default is a bit higher.

RCS on Android will not be meant to switch the remainder of your apps. Sign remains to be the place to go in case you’re searching for extremely safe messages. Telegram and Discord are the place you go when searching for teams or speaking to your pals. WhatsApp, Fb Messenger, Snapchat, Instagram is the place you go in your family and friends. Google is not making an attempt to vary that; they do not wish to change that; Hiroshi stated it clearly.

Each app has its function, and Google does not assume RCS will change that. Google simply needs one thing higher by default.

The cynical case of why Google needs RCS to succeed

After speaking to Google about RCS messaging, one factor turned clear: Google actually needs RCS to take off, outdoors of the Android platform. There are a lot of theories as to why Google would possibly wish to push RCS and change it with default SMS on gadgets all over the world. Some have speculated that it was to gather information, however the end-to-end encryption enabled by default makes that unlikely. Others have speculated that Google needed it so there was one much less brick in Apple’s walled backyard, and that is sensible, up to some extent.

RCS doesn’t require the usage of all options. Common Profile doesn’t require typing flags, learn receipts, and so forth. Apple, if it chooses, may select which components of RCS it needs to implement. If they only needed so as to add end-to-end encryption and higher group chats, they might. This walled backyard destruction concept crumbles when you consider what Apple has the power to do to maintain the walled backyard going whereas bettering safety and different experiences.

I feel it boils down to simply verified posts and RCS for enterprise. RCS for Enterprise allows Google and different distributors to promote companies entry to higher messaging with prospects. As a part of Jibe, Google makes use of RCS to supply wealthy switching with purchasers. This might be, for instance, Greatest Purchase utilizing RCS to supply QR codes and the power to ship when you’re there in RCS chat.

Google sells this as a enterprise service for B2C (enterprise to shopper) communications, so the extra gadgets there are, particularly when iPhone customers are usually prepared to spend more cash via their telephones, there turns into simpler to promote to firms to put money into Google Jibes B2C communication providers. This with all Google accounts linked to ship full decision photographs in Google Pictures,

Messaging is now not an Android drawback, it is an iPhone drawback

Messaging is solved for Android customers. In case you exit and purchase a brand new Android cellphone proper now, the default e-mail shopper will most likely be Google Messages with RCS chat. Even on older gadgets, simply set up an official Google app from the Play Retailer.

One of many primary takeaways I realized from my discussions with Lockheimer was that fashionable messaging and the basics of RCS are resolved on Android. Android customers worldwide have entry to RCS with one another. Its peer-to-peer encrypted utilizing the Sign protocol, each person-to-person and in group chats (at present in beta) for as much as 100 individuals.

Issues with SMS now not exist for the overwhelming majority of Android customers. The issue now impacts iPhone customers.

iPhone customers have iMessage Android customers have RCS. The one approach to have native cross-communication based mostly on cellphone numbers is to make use of a 20-year-old outdated protocol. Photos are worse, video is worse, group chats turn out to be a multitude of delayed messages in teams you’ll be able to by no means go away. Plain and easy, the expertise is the worst.

This protocol will not be safe, which is essential as a result of one of the crucial in style types of 2-factor authentication is sending a textual content message. RCS permits enterprises to make use of RCS Common Profile with the Sign Protocol to encrypt these messages. This implies, theoretically, prospects utilizing two-factor with Android may have extra safety than iPhone customers. Realistically, this hasn’t been rolled out but and possibly will not be till the funding is value it, as it could be if iOS supported RCS.

As Hiroshi stated:

Because you talked about Apple, I simply talked about they discuss how privateness is a human proper and the way essential it’s to them. I really feel like I am a know-how right here that is out there now. Now I really feel unhealthy for iPhone customers who’re going to expertise degraded options, it could be nice if they might convey that to them. And higher safety for them too. You recognize Android customers are advantageous, they’re texting one another with full safety and all that and now it is type of bizarre as a result of now after they work together with iPhones they had been going to must face to a degraded safety expertise.

He’s proper. There’s lots happening within the RCS debate and whether or not Apple ought to help it, many tech fanatics and people within the trade cite the horrible expertise till not too long ago as a motive why they should not, however as I I stated earlier, that is the entire story. It does not matter the way it occurred, what issues is how they do it. No person asks for all Apple apps on Android, they’ll hold them. What Google needs, what customers need, and what I need is straightforward: one thing higher and safer than SMS.

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