Why RCS on Android Still Sucks

Stop trying to make RCS happen

Key Takeaways

  • RCS messaging offers new features like high-quality images, read receipts, and more.
  • Adoption of RCS by carriers has been slow, with only one major carrier offering network-wide RCS support.
  • With so many users already embedded in other messaging apps, RCS doesn’t feel like an impactful upgrade anymore.
Manhattan skyline in New York City and sky background with bubble chat icon overlays.

Prasit photo / Getty Images 

AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have canceled a joint venture to push a unified RCS texting experience, which experts say could hinder the broader rollout of Android’s advanced messaging standard.

The idea behind Rich Communication Services (RCS) was to create an Android equivalent to Apple’s iMessage. By expanding on the services offered by traditional texting systems, users would be able to send higher-quality images, read receipts, and more.

In short, it would make texting more like using an instant messenger. Now that major carriers are backing out of the Cross Carrier Messaging Initiative (CCMI), experts say the future of RCS could be more limited than before. At that point, is it even worth it?

"The abandonment of CCMI is likely to lead to further delays to the full rollout of RCS messaging between carriers, and will likely leave consumers unable to send RCS messages to one another unless they happen to be on the same carrier," Ray Walsh, a digital expert with ProPrivacy, explained. 

Lack of Care

If you’ve never heard of RCS texting, you aren’t alone. Though the updated messaging system is available through the Google Messages app, there has been no real big push by most of the major carriers to bring it to their consumers.

On top of that, other messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal already offer more features than RCS currently brings to the table, with broader availability.

Currently, RCS is only available in the Samsung Messages app and the Google Messages app. It also doesn’t work between Android and iPhone users, which means you can’t send RCS-enabled content to users unless they are on an Android phone and using one of the messaging apps that support RCS.

The problem with RCS messaging is that while it definitely helps to improve and update the antiquated SMS system, it still fails to compete with free over-the-top messengers...

The CCMI was a chance for the major carriers to work out a default messaging solution that offers RCS directly to customers without installing any additional apps. Unfortunately, those same companies let the feature fall to the wayside, instead focusing on 5G and newer phone releases. T-Mobile also acquired Sprint during this time, bringing the four networks involved down to three.

RCS continued to be a second thought until last year when T-Mobile made a deal with Google to make Google Messages the default messaging app for its Android phones. By doing this, the company took a step away from what the CCMI had set out to do—they wanted to create a unified messaging app to use across all carriers—and instead partnered up with Google.

With the spearhead of the entire movement—Sprint—now backing another player for RCS support, the CCMI already was running on borrowed time. Instead of making the most of that time, AT&T and Verizon continued to focus on other things. Even now, with the dissolution of the CCMI, it’s unclear what plans, if any, the two networks have to bring RCS support to their users.

The Bottom Line

RCS was meant to replace the older text messaging and picture messaging that users have had for years now. With it, you can send higher-quality images, take part in video calls, and more.

Despite the promises that RCS makes, little headway has been made to roll it out to customers, and most have just moved on to other applications to meet those needs.

Someone using a text message app on a smartphone.

Tom Werner / Getty Images

Google’s attempts to take charge are nice, but the need to install an additional app to replace your default messaging app means that many users forego that method, instead relying on other free messaging solutions like Signal and Telegram.

These systems are more secure than traditional texting applications and don’t cost anything extra for features like end-to-end encryption.

Sure, Google is beta testing features like end-to-end encryption, but with carriers not treating RCS as a priority, there’s no real reason to give up other messaging apps for it.

"The problem with RCS messaging is that, while it definitely helps to improve and update the antiquated SMS system, it still fails to compete with free over-the-top messengers, which makes it hard to excite consumers about the standard," Walsh explained.

"Over-the-top messengers provide much more functionality and security than RCS, and they allow people to communicate for free—something that RCS messaging with phone carriers will never do because they want to profit from the sending of messages."

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