All Three Major U.S. Carriers and Google Adopt Rich Communication Services, But No Sign of Apple Interest

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For the last several years, Google has been pushing a new communications protocol called Rich Communication Services, or RCS. RCS is designed to replace SMS, the current text message standard, and it offers support for higher resolution photos and videos, audio messages, bigger file sizes, better encryption, improved group chat, and more.

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Verizon today announced that it is planning to adopt Messages by Google as its default messaging service on Android devices, joining AT&T and T-Mobile. That means all three major carriers in the United States will support the RCS standard on Android devices as of 2022.

As The Verge points out, this leaves Apple as the big RCS holdout, and there are benefits that iPhone users will miss out on.

When RCS sees a complete Android rollout, text messages on Android phones will be end-to-end encrypted. ‌iPhone‌ to ‌iPhone‌ communications are end-to-end encrypted thanks to iMessage, but with this change, texts between Android users and ‌iPhone‌ users will be less secure because of Apple’s decision to continue to use SMS over RCS.

Hiroshi Lockheimer, senior vice president of Android, told The Verge that Android vs. ‌iPhone‌ messaging security will become an important discussion with the wider adoption of RCS. “The fallback messaging experience on the other platform will not have encryption if it’s still SMS,” he said. “I think that that is a pretty interesting dynamic and I would hope that as everyone focuses on security and privacy it becomes an important part of the discussion.”

Lockheimer did not provide details on whether Google is discussing RCS with Apple, but Apple has been invited to adopt the RCS standard. Apple has declined to comment on RCS, and there’s no sign that Apple plans to adopt it in the near future.

Now that all three major carriers in the U.S. are supporting RCS, Apple may be more inclined to consider the technology to make cross-platform messaging more secure.

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