What Is an RCS Message? Here’s What You Should Know [2023]

October 10, 2023 | By Sam Pelton
Cartoon example of people texting including images

The competition between Apple and Android has been fierce for a long time in regards to marketing to mobile users in the US.

So far the two are neck-and-neck. One thing that Apple has had going for it is their user-friendly and seamless messaging service iMessage, which allows Apple device users to send texts to each other in expanded and fun ways beyond what simple SMS and MMS might allow.

Some would call it an unfair monopoly, while others would call it a convenient and user-friendly product. But until recently, the reality was that there wasn’t much competition against iMessage in the US market.

Enter RCS, Android’s rich messaging alternative to Apple’s iMessage.

Android’s hope is undoubtedly that their RCS feature will give them one leg up on Apple. They’ve even championed RCS as making SMS obsolete as we know it.

But what is an RCS message? Does it have the potential to give iMessage a run for its money? And does RCS spell the end for traditional SMS?

Let’s dig in and find out.

What Is an RCS Message?

An “RCS” message is a “Rich Communication Services” message. RCS is Android’s text messaging option allowing people to send “rich” messages to other devices.

By “rich” messages, this is referring to text messages that include expanded features. Some examples would include being able to share media files with a high resolution and the ability to see when someone is typing.

“Rich business messaging” (RCS for businesses) allows for further “rich” features such as pre-filled “quick reply” options and carousels.

RCS messages are branded as the replacement for SMS and could be perceived as the competition to Apple’s iMessage (although Google actually wants Apple to adopt RCS as a standard across its devices).

RCS is currently available for virtually all Android phones (including Samsung) via the Google Messages app. (Android users who don’t have Google Messages can download it for free in order to access RCS messaging.)

What Are the Key Features of an RCS Message?

Infographic with H1 “What Are the Key Features of an RCS Message?”

An RCS message goes beyond the limitations of traditional SMS and MMS, providing several features to help make the user experience more like iMessage or other chat apps such as Facebook Messenger. Here are a few of the features available to the average user:

1. High Res Multimedia Messaging

RCS allows users to send multimedia content seamlessly within conversations without the file size limitations of MMS. Most smartphone users can attest, for example, that sending a video more than a few seconds long isn’t a user-friendly experience via MMS. With RCS, this isn’t as much of a concern.

2. Read Receipts

You’re used to seeing read receipts when you send someone a text message via Messenger or if you have an iPhone, and RCS now adds this functionality to texting from Android devices. That way, you can see if someone has actually seen your message. (Although sometimes you may not want to know because it makes you wonder why they didn’t reply!)

3. Typing Indicators

RCS also provides real-time typing indicators. When someone is composing a response, you'll see a "typing" notification, giving you instant feedback on the progress of the conversation. This can sometimes be helpful—although it can also sometimes put you in crisis mode when you keep seeing those “dots” appear and disappear and you wonder… “Why aren’t they texting me back?”

4. Group Chats

RCS supports dynamic group chats, allowing more seamless management of group messaging. With RCS, you can create, name, and manage groups, or remove yourself from groups. If you use apps like Messenger you may already be aware of how this works and how helpful it can be at times in regards to keeping your group messaging more organized.

5. Secure Communication

RCS messaging allows for end-to-end encryption, to help keep your conversations private and secure—which, obviously, is especially important for sensitive or confidential discussions. SMS messages, on the other hand, are not encrypted.

6. Easy Implementation

Since RCS is now integrated into an Android user’s Google Messages app, there's no need to download additional applications. So you can start using it right away. The flip side of this is that RCS may not be supported on every single device, and is not supported on Apple phones.

7. Wi-Fi and Data Usage

RCS messages can be sent over Wi-Fi or mobile data, providing flexibility in how you use the service. This can be particularly helpful when traveling or in areas with limited cellular coverage.

8. Enhanced Business Options

Businesses looking to use RCS can get access to more options, such as:

  • Branded messaging
  • A “verified sender” checkmark
  • “Suggested” reply and action bubbles recipients can tap
  • QR code capabilities
  • “Rich” info cards that can provide branded or detailed information
  • Carousels that recipients can scroll through

Benefits of Sending an RCS Message

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Because of the key features mentioned above, RCS messages offer several advantages for both individuals and businesses…

1. Enhanced User Experience and Communication

The idea behind RCS is to make texting a richer, more interactive experience. The added features such as high res multimedia messaging, read receipts, and typing indicators help make conversations more dynamic and engaging. This kind of enhanced experience can help lead to more expressive communication.

2. Increased Engagement for Businesses

For businesses, RCS messages potentially offer a direct line to customers with richer (and branded) content. Interactive messages with images and buttons can boost customer engagement and help drive action, such as making a purchase or scheduling an appointment.

3. Versatility in Messaging

Like SMS, RCS isn't just for one type of communication; it's a versatile channel. You can use it for personal chats, group discussions, business marketing, customer support, and whatever other communication needs you may have.

4. Seamless Integration

Also similar to SMS, RCS is typically integrated into a user’s messaging app, making it convenient to use (as long as the user has an Android device). As mentioned previously, users don't need to download separate apps or sign up for additional services; it's right there in their messaging app.

5. Peace of Mind

Because of the end-to-end encryption offered through RCS, users can have more peace of mind that their messages will be sent privately and securely. They can put to rest concerns that their messages are being stored in unsecure places.

6. Future-Proofing

The idea behind RCS is that it will become the “new” SMS. If this is true, it means that by adopting RCS messaging now, you're future-proofing your communication strategy, helping ensure that you stay up-to-date with the latest messaging trends and capabilities.

These potential benefits definitely make RCS messages an intriguing tool to look into.

How to Send and Receive an RCS Message on Your Phone

If you don’t already have it enabled, you can enable RCS on your phone by…

  • Going to your Google Messages app
  • Selecting the icon or image in the top right corner
  • Selecting the “Message settings” option
  • Selecting the “RCS chats” option
  • From here you’ll be able to toggle RCS messaging on or off

Many Android phones are now able to support it, although Apple has not adopted RCS.

What’s the Future of the RCS Message?

cartoon person looking at their phone with question marks and the H1 “What’s the Future of RCS Messages?

The future of the RCS message is up in the air.

Although Android phones now largely have access to it, it is not taking off as quickly as some may have hoped and it seems unlikely to replace SMS (or iMessage) anytime soon.

Apple Insider points out part of the adoption problem with RCS is that it’s not clear what devices are actually supported—probably because there are just simply so many Android devices out there.

But likely the primary reason for the hesitating adoption is the obvious issue that Apple is unlikely to ever implement RCS in the near future—because they already have a similar solution that’s working very well for them in iMessage. (And the advantage of iMessage is that it works seamlessly across all iPhones and Apple devices.)

Furthermore, SMS is so heavily ingrained in American society that it would likely take a very strong solution to ever replace it, and it would likely take a very long time.

And since widespread adoption of RCS is most likely dependent on Apple, and they don’t show any signs of budging, I don’t foresee RCS taking off as the future of text messaging in the years to come.

The Bottom Line: Don’t Sweat RCS

While RCS was getting a lot of hype for a while, the craze seems to have died down and reality has sunk in: RCS is in a bit of a slump.

While it’s possible that it’s usage may increase more and more as time goes on, the unlikelihood of Apple adoption means that its future is far from certain.

At this point, we’re in a “wait and see” period—for now, we can observe how developments play out, and in the meantime, for text marketers, you can keep your primary focus on the tried-and-true methods of SMS and MMS.


What Does “RCS Message” Mean?

“RCS message” means “Rich Communication Services.” It refers to Android’s relatively new texting service that offers some features unavailable using traditional SMS or MMS. (See sections “What Is an RCS Message?” and “What Are the Key Features of an RCS Message?” above.)

What Is RCS Message on Android?

“RCS message” means “Rich Communication Services” and is a messaging service available on Android devices. It allows you to take advantage of enhanced “rich” features as you message people. (See “What Does ‘RCS Message’ Mean?” above.)

It is not currently supported by Apple devices.

How to Turn Off RCS Messaging (Samsung, Android)?

If you want to disable RCS Messaging on your device, you can do the following:

  • Go to your Google Messages app
  • Select the icon or image in the top right corner
  • Select the “Message settings” option
  • Select the “RCS chats” option
  • From here you’ll be able to toggle RCS messaging on or off

How to Turn On RCS in Google Messages?

If you want to enable RCS Messaging on your device, you can do the following:

  • Go to your Google Messages app
  • Select the icon or image in the top right corner
  • Select the “Message settings” option
  • Select the “RCS chats” option
  • From here you’ll be able to toggle RCS messaging on or off

Is RCS Messaging Safe?

Since RCS messaging allows for end-to-end encryption, it is a safe way to send messages. You can send messages without much concern that your texts will be intercepted and read by unauthorized parties.

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