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 drawback: Speaking RCS with Hiroshi Lockheimer

Max Weibach –

March 24, 2023 11am

A couple of weeks in the past at MWC 2023, I had the chance to sit down 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 bought a superb 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 World System for Cellular Communications Affiliation, a gaggle of over 750 cellular operators and over 400 corporations within the cellular ecosystem. The GSMA’s major intention was for a contemporary communication protocol that might not work over voice networks, as a result of then and to some extent 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 It was and is extraordinarily outdated, inefficient and unsafe. That is why GSMA designed RCS, to interchange the outdated platform.

A couple of years after the GSMA launched RCS (and whereas apps like WhatsApp took off), Lockheimer stated the GSMA approached Google about the usual on the MWC. Google, investigating RCS, realized that GSMA was proper, SMS was almost 20 years outdated on the time and wanted to be modernised. 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iMessage was introduced, Apple understood the identical factor and determined to roll out iMessage as a response to the outdated protocol.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 stated, it is a lengthy sport, you realize, that is positively one of many learnings that you must stick with and transfer ahead. He defined that despite the fact that the GSMA approached them to carry assist for RCS, the carriers had totally different concepts about how they wished to implement RCS.

In spite of everything of that, 2015 got here and there was nonetheless no cross-carrier messaging. As a substitute, it was restricted solely by provider to provider, akin to Verizon-to-Verizon, messaging, and even particular gadgets utilizing particular apps, akin to Verizons Messages+. For instance, if you happen to had a Samsung telephone from T-Cellular, there was no assure that it might work with T-Cellular as nicely. You would want 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 fairly than by way of a provider, there was no strategy to entry RCS. The truth is, RCS was ineffective.

The turning level for RCS was with Common Profile. The Common Profile was a set of primary 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 arduous to know if you happen to or your contacts would have entry to it, and unattainable to entry it until to procure a telephone by way of a provider.

As Lockheimer defined, Google realized it might velocity up this course of, it wished customers to have the ability to get this expertise by downloading an app fairly 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 shopper allowed any consumer to entry essentially the most primary options of RCS with out counting on their provider to assist Common Profile or system OEM to assist RCS. Merely put, RCS has began to reside 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 12 months, Google’s RCS service had 500 million customers, a quantity that Lockheimer says is way bigger now.

Google does not need RCS to interchange your different messaging apps

I wish 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 implausible. We’re not attempting 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 everyday particular person does not, however it does not damage that the default is a little bit higher.

RCS on Android shouldn’t be meant to interchange the remainder of your apps. Sign continues to be the place to go if you happen to’re in search of extremely safe messaging. Telegram and Discord are the place you go when in search of 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 attempting to vary that; they do not wish to change it; Hiroshi made that clear.

Each app has its personal goal, and Google does not assume 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 turned clear: Google actually needs RCS to take off, exterior of the Android platform. There are lots of theories as to why Google may wish to push RCS and have it substitute SMS because the default on gadgets 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 so on. Apple might, if it wished, select which elements of RCS it want to implement. If they only wished so as to add end-to-end encryption and higher group chats, they might. This walled backyard tearing down concept falls aside when you consider what Apple has the power to do to take care of the walled backyard whereas enhancing security and different experiences.

I imagine this merely is dependent upon verified messages and RCS for corporations. RCS for enterprise permits Google and different suppliers to promote companies entry to raised buyer messaging. As a part of Jibe, Google makes use of RCS to offer wealthy buyer switching. This could possibly be, for instance, Greatest Purchase utilizing RCS to offer QR codes and the power to ship whenever you’re in RCS chat.

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

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

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

One of many massive classes I bought 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 folks.

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 strategy to have native cross communication based mostly on the telephone quantity is with a 20 12 months outdated protocol. Photos look worse, movies look worse, group chats grow to be a large number 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 common types of 2-factor authentication is through a textual content message. RCS permits corporations to make use of RCS Common Profile with the Sign protocol to encrypt these messages. Which means that, in concept, clients utilizing two components with Android might have extra safety than iPhone customers. Realistically, this hasn’t been carried out but and certain will not till it is well worth the funding, which it might be if iOS supported RCS.

As Hiroshi stated:

Because you talked about Apple, I will simply point out that they discuss how privateness is a human proper and the way vital it’s to them. I really feel like, look here’s a know-how obtainable now Now I am simply sorry iPhone customers will expertise the degraded options, it might be nice if they might carry that to them. And in addition higher safety for them. that Android customers are superb, texting one another securely and all that, and now it is form of weird as a result of now once 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 fans and people within the business point out the till just lately horrendous expertise as a foundation for why they should not, however as I stated 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 each one Apple apps on Android can preserve 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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