Google has been working on RCS, the next generation of SMS, for years now. It’s a more modern, feature-rich messaging protocol that promises to replace the aging SMS standard. However, RCS has been slow to gain traction, and many people are wondering if Google has given up on it.
At Google I/O 2023, Google made some announcements and released statistics that suggest that the company is still committed to RCS and that the rollout is thriving.
For the uninitiated, Google Chat, or RCS, allows Google Messages users to access and have read receipts, typing indicators, and ability to send high-quality photos and videos, essentially a WhatsApp feature set for your SMS app.
A few years ago, we saw Google partnering with Samsung, Huawei, and other manufacturers to make Messages the default texting app on their devices, thereby circumventing carriers. Google now claims that over 800 million people are using RCS through Messages and that it expects to reach one billion by the end of 2023.
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At Google I/O 2023, Google also took a jab at Apple for not adopting RCS on its iPhones. Apple uses its own iMessage protocol for texting, which is incompatible with RCS. This creates a discrepancy between Android and iPhone users when it comes to texting features and security. Google’s VP of Product Management Sameer Samat said:
“We hope every mobile operating system gets the message and adopts RCS, so we can all hang out in the group chat together no matter what device we’re using.”Google’s VP of Product Management Sameer Samat
The audience at Google I/O cheered and applauded at this remark.
At the event, the company announced some new features and updates for RCS and Messages. First, Google said that it is working with the GSMA, the industry body that oversees mobile standards, to make RCS interoperable across different networks and devices. This means that users will be able to enjoy the same RCS experience regardless of their carrier or phone model.
Second, Google said that it is adding more AI-powered features to Messages, such as Smart Reply, Smart Compose, and Smart Actions. These features use Google’s natural language processing and machine learning to suggest relevant responses, complete sentences, and perform tasks based on the context of the conversation. For example, if someone sends you a photo of a restaurant, Messages can suggest a reply like “Looks delicious!” or an action like “Make a reservation”.
Third, Google said that it is integrating Google Lens with Messages, allowing users to search and interact with visual content within their chats. For example, if someone sends you a screenshot of a product, you can tap on it and see more information about it on Google Shopping. You can also use Lens to translate text, copy text, identify objects, and more.
Finally, Google said that it is expanding its Bard service to more countries and languages. Bard is an AI chatbot that can converse with users on various topics and tasks. Users can access Bard through Messages by tapping on a button or saying “Hey Google”. Bard can help users with things like booking flights, ordering food, playing games, writing code, and more.
Overall, the announcements that Google made at Google I/O 2023 suggest that the company is still committed to RCS. Google is working on adding new features to RCS and making it easier for people to switch to RCS. It remains to be seen whether RCS will be able to gain widespread adoption, but Google is certainly doing everything it can to make it happen.
Google’s efforts to promote RCS show that the company still believes in the future of texting as a communication medium. By adding more functionality and intelligence to Messages, Google hopes to make texting more engaging and useful for users. However, whether RCS will ever become a universal standard remains to be seen.